Media centre

Better care for newborns crucial for Millennium Development Goal on child deaths

The World Health Statistics 2010 shows that globally about 40% of deaths in children under five years old occur in the first month of life.

News release

Improving newborn care in the first month of life is essential for reducing child deaths in developing countries, according to a global update on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) released today in the World Health Statistics 2010.

Globally, about 40% of deaths in children under five years old are estimated to occur in the first month of life, most of which occur in the first week. For the first time, this report provides the major causes of these deaths among newborns. The report also shows that deaths among children under five have dropped by 30% from 12.5 million in 1990 to 8.8 million in 2008.

Improvements in health MDGs

With five years remaining to the MDG deadline in 2015 there are some striking improvements in some health MDGs: the percentage of underweight children is estimated to have declined from 25% in 1990 to 16% in 2010, HIV infections dropped 16% between 2001 and 2008 and the percentage of the world’s population with access to safe water has increased from 77% to 87%, enough to reach the MDG target.

Inequalities still exist

However, the global results mask inequalities between countries and regions. Some countries have been held back by conflict, poor governance, or humanitarian and economic crises. "But several low-income countries have made substantial progress in reducing child mortality, including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Rwanda," says Ties Boerma, Director of WHO Department of Health Statistics and Informatics.

"Few developing countries are on track to reach the MDG target for maternal mortality. However, there is evidence of some progress in countries such as China and Egypt," says Dr Boerma. "But measurement is a challenge and investments are needed in building better country systems to accurately identify and record maternal deaths."

"The challenge is also to assist countries in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South-East Asia to get access to interventions such as insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria, or prevent malnutrition. Undernutrition is the underlying cause of a third of child deaths," he says.

Health statistics

The World Health Statistics 2010 also shows:

  • Nine countries in Africa and 29 outside Africa are on course to meet the MDG target for reducing malaria, but in 2008 an estimated 243 million cases of malaria still caused 863 000 deaths, mostly in children under five years old.
  • New HIV infections have been reduced globally by 16% between 2001 to 2008. In 2008 2.7 million people were newly infected with HIV; more than 4 million people in low- and middle-income countries were receiving antiretroviral treatment by the end of 2008 but that left more than 5 million people untreated.
  • Existing cases of tuberculosis (TB) are declining as more people are being successfully treated. TB mortality among HIV-negative people has dropped from 1.7 million in 2001 to 1.4 million in 2008.

The MDGs were initiated by the United Nations and its partners to achieve significant improvements in eight health and development areas by 2015.

World Health Statistics 2010 is an annual report based on more than 100 health indicators reported by WHO's 193 Member States. These data provide a snapshot of global health trends. However, timely and accurate health information is hard to obtain in some parts of the world.

For more information please contact:

Ties Boerma
Director, Health Statistics and Informatics, WHO/Geneva
Telephone: +41 22 79 11481
Mobile: +41 (0) 79 217 3426
E-mail: boermat@who.int

Carla Abou-Zahr
Coordinator, Statistics, Monitoring and Analysis, WHO/Geneva
Telephone: +41 22 79 13367
Mobile: +41 79 217 3449
E-mail: abouzahrc@who.int

Alice Ghent
Communications Officer, Department of Information, Evidence and Research, WHO/Geneva
Telephone: +41 22 791 1498
Mobile: +41 79 206 1087
E-mail: ghenta@who.int

Share