Five million children under 5 died in 2021 worldwide

Faouzia Souleymane, an 8-month-old malnourished baby, receives a nutritional supplement, at the CRENI in Tahoua, Niger.


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The figures are alarming.

While young children born today have a better chance of surviving than in 1990, inequalities persist and the number of deaths is still far too high considering the state of available knowledge, reports a report from the UN published on January 10, 2023.


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Of these 5 million children who died worldwide before the age of 5 in 2021, almost half (2.3 million) occurred in infants during the first month of life, and 1.4 million before their first birthday.

Figures that send shivers down your spine, although it must be remembered, global under-five mortality has fallen by 59% since 1990.

These losses of life, for the most part preventable, could be avoided with improved care at the time of birth, vaccinations, proper nutrition and access to clean water.

Communicable and infectious diseases continue to be the leading causes of under-five death, while injuries (unintentional and intentional) are becoming the most important cause of preventable mortality among older children, adolescents and young people. aged 5 to 24.

An essential marker of the development of society, the good health of children from birth and the improvement of the mortality rate are part of the

Sustainable Development Goals

(SDGs) that the Member States of the United Nations have set themselves, within the framework of the 2030 agenda. Without urgent action to curb under-five deaths, more than 50 countries will miss the target (an average of 25 deaths per 1,000 births) and more than 60 countries will also miss the objective concerning the reduction of neonatal mortality.

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Inequalities according to the place of birth of the children

Unsurprisingly, the report shows inequalities by country.

Children born in sub-Saharan Africa are exposed to the highest risk of infant death in the world with in 2021: 74 deaths per 1,000 births, i.e. 15 times higher than the risk for children in Europe and North and America and 19 times more than in Australia and New Zealand.

Children born in Central Asia are also more exposed with 22 deaths per 1,000 births.

And these inequalities are found from an early age with neonatal mortality rates that follow the same trend.

Children living in fragile and conflict-affected regions are particularly vulnerable.

In this UN report, we note the progress of countries that have managed to outpace this global decline in the number of young children dying despite limited economic resources such as Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi and Uganda, but also Bangladesh, Mongolia and Uzbekistan with a reduction of more than 75% in the number of deaths among children under 5 since 1990.

► To read: The two UN reports


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