Global Health Observatory (GHO)

Under-five mortality


6.6 million children under age five died in 2012, nearly 18 000 every day.

The risk of a child dying before completing five years of age is still highest in the WHO African Region (95 per 1000 live births), about 8 times higher than that in the WHO European Region (12 per 1000 live births). Many countries still have very high under-five mortality—particularly those in WHO Africa Region, home to 15 of the
16 countries with an under-five mortality rate above 100 deaths per 1,000 live births. In addition, inequities in child mortality between high income and low income countries remain large. In 2012 the under-five mortality rate in low income countries was 82 deaths per 1,000 live births—more than 13 times the average rate in high income countries (6 deaths per 1,000 live births). Reducing these inequities across countries and saving more children’s lives by ending preventable child deaths are important priorities.


Globally, under-five mortality has decreased by 47%, from an estimated rate of 90 deaths per 1000 live births in 1990 to 48 deaths per 1000 live births in 2012. The average annual rate of reduction in under-five mortality has accelerated—from 1.2% a year over the period 1990–1995 to 3.9% for 2005–2012—but remains insufficient to reach MDG 4. About 17 000 fewer children died every day in 2012 than in 1990, the baseline year for measuring progress.

While progress has been made, it is unequally distributed. At the regional level, the decline in under-five mortality rates between 1990 and 2012 were over 60% for three WHO regions: the Americas, European and the Western Pacific. This means that the WHO African region has increasing share of under-five deaths.

By 2050, 37% of the world’s children under age five will live in Sub-Saharan Africa; while close to 40% of all live births will take place in that region. Therefore the number of under-five deaths may stagnate or even increase without more progress in the region. Despite Sub-Saharan Africa’s relatively high rates of under-five mortality, there are signs of progress in the region. The pace of decline in the under-five mortality rate has accelerated over time --increasing from 0.8 % per year in 1990-1995 to 4.1% per year in 2000-2012.