UN report says a child under 15 dies every five seconds worldwide

  • Liu Zhenmin says new UN IGME report shows remarkable progress in reducing mortality among children, young adolescents

An estimated 6.3 million children under 15 years of age died, or one every five seconds, in 2017 mostly due to preventable causes, according to new estimates released by the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME).

The estimates showed that the vast majority of these deaths, 5.4 million, occur in the first five years of life, with newborns accounting for around half of the deaths. “Without urgent action, 56 million children under five years of age will die from now until 2030, half of them newborns,” said Laurence Chandy, UNICEF director of Data, Research and Policy.

Led by the UN Children’s Fund, UN IGME was formed in 2004 to share data on the child mortality, harmonize estimates within the UN system, improve methods for child mortality estimation, report on progress towards child survival goals and enhance country capacity to produce timely and properly assessed estimates of child mortality.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Bank Group and the UN Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs are also full members of this group. “We have made remarkable progress to save children since 1990, but millions are still dying because of who they are and where they are born,” Laurence Chandy said.

“With simple solutions like medicines, clean water, electricity and vaccines, we can change that reality for every child,” he said. In February, UNICEF report said that a baby born in Pakistan, the country with the worst newborn mortality rate, faced a one in 22 chance of death. The report also pointed out that babies born in the world’s poorest countries still face alarming risks of death that can be 50 times as high as those in the richest countries.

Dr Princess Nono Simelela, the assistant director-general for the Family, Women and Children’s Health at WHO, said that millions of babies and children should not still be dying every year from lack of access to water, sanitation, proper nutrition or basic health services. “We must provide universal access to quality health services to every child to give them the best possible chance to survive and thrive.”

Liu Zhenmin

Most children under five die due to preventable or treatable causes such as complications during birth, pneumonia, diarrhea, neonatal sepsis, and malaria. By comparison, among children between five and 14 years of age, injuries become a more prominent cause of death, especially from drowning and road traffic.

“More than six million children dying before their 15th birthday is a cost we simply can’t afford,” said Timothy Evans, senior director and head of the Health, Nutrition and Population Global Practice at the World Bank Group. “Ending preventable deaths and investing in the health of young people is a basic foundation for building countries’ human capital, which will drive their future growth and prosperity.”

UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Liu Zhenmin said that this new report highlights the remarkable progress since 1990 in reducing mortality among children and young adolescents. “Reducing inequality by assisting the most vulnerable newborns, children and mothers is essential for achieving the target of the Sustainable Development Goals on ending preventable childhood deaths, he said.