UN Reports Historic Low: 4.9 Million Children Died Before 5th Birthday in 2022

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The United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME) released its latest estimates, revealing a significant milestone: the number of children dying before their fifth birthday has dropped to a historic low of 4.9 million in 2022.

The report, disclosed by the World Bank, highlights a global under-five mortality rate decline of 51% since 2000, indicating progress in child survival efforts worldwide. Notably, the rate dropped by 60%, from 93 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 37 in 2022.

According to UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell, these figures represent more than statistics; they reflect the tireless efforts of midwives, health workers, and community health workers in providing essential services to mothers and children. Despite the progress, approximately 2.1 million children and youth aged five to 24 also had their lives cut short in 2022, with a concentration of deaths in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.

The primary causes of these tragic losses remain preventable or treatable conditions such as preterm birth complications, pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria. Access to high-quality primary health care, including vaccinations and skilled health personnel during birth, could have averted many of these deaths.

Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), emphasizes the need to ensure equal access to quality health services for all women and children, regardless of their geographical location. This is particularly crucial in light of increasing threats such as economic instability, conflicts, climate change, and the ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19.

Despite progress, disparities persist, with children in the poorest households and those in fragile or conflict-affected settings facing higher mortality rates. If current trends continue, 35 million children could die before reaching their fifth birthday by 2030, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia, and low- and lower-middle-income countries.

To address these challenges, there is a pressing need to improve data collection and statistical systems, particularly in regions where mortality burdens are high, to better monitor child survival and health outcomes. Accelerated investments, collaboration, and focus on ending preventable child deaths are essential to honor global commitments and ensure every child has the opportunity to thrive.

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