Infant and child mortality

International Monetary Fund
Published Date:
June 2000
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Goal: Reduce infant and child mortality rates by two-thirds by 2015

11 million children under the age of 5 died in 1998, most from preventable causes

Infant and under-5 mortality rates fell by more than half between 1960 and 1990. In China, Sri Lanka and Vietnam infant mortality fell by three-quarters—good reason to hope that such success can be repeated in other poor countries. But progress slowed in the 1990s. And in most regions, a big effort will be needed to attain a two-thirds reduction by 2015.

The outlook for children—improving, but too slowly

Under-5 mortality rates (deaths per 1,000 live births)

What stands in the way? Unsafe water. Inadequate immunisation. War and civil conflict. High levels of poverty and malnutrition. Poor access to basic education, especially for girls. The spread of HIV/AIDS and the resurgence of malaria and tuberculosis.

“The boy died of measles. We all know he could have been cured at the hospital. But the parents had no money, and so the boy died a slow and painful death.

Bangladesh improves child survival

Bangladesh reduced infant and under-5 mortality rates by about 25% between 1990 and 1998. A remarkable achievement, although not quite fast enough to reach the goal by 2015. What did it take? A focus on immunisation. National awareness campaigns on the treatment of diarrhoea. Special programmes to reduce pneumonia-related deaths. Better sanitation and better access to safe water. Also important were strong community participation in the delivery of basic social services, special scholarships for girls and the expansion of microcredit for women.

Infant deaths are most often the result of unhealthy conditions around the time of birth. Pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria or measles frequently kill young children, especially those suffering from chronic malnutrition.

Deaths at a young age

Infant deaths (millions), 1998

More poor children die

Under-5 mortality rates (deaths per 1,000 live births) by family assets

Educating girls saves lives

Under-5 mortality rates (deaths per 1,000 live births) by mother–s level of education

Under-5 mortality rates are highest among the poorest, but they are high even for the relatively wealthy. Reducing infant and child deaths depends on greater investments in basic social services and on educating parents and improving nutrition, especially for the poor.

Education empowers women to have smaller families, to provide better care for their children and to pass on knowledge that will improve their children’s lives.

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