Child health

July 2015

Key facts

  • The global under-five mortality rate nearly halved from 90 deaths per 1000 in 1990 to 46 in 2013.* The rate of decline has accelerated from 1.2% per year over 1990–1995 to 4.0% a year from 2005 to 2013. The number of under-five deaths has declined from more than 12 million in 1990 to 6.3 million in 2013. This translates into nearly 17 000 fewer children dying every day in 2013 than in 1990.
  • In the Western Pacific Region, the under-five mortality rate has reduced by 71% from 52 deaths per 1000 in 1990 to 15 in 2013.** Under-five deaths declined from 1.98 million in 1990 to 395 000 in 2013.
  • 93% of the under-five deaths are in six countries of the Region (Cambodia, China, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and Viet Nam). Almost 65% of under-five deaths occur in China alone, because of the big size of its population. Together India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo Pakistan and China contribute to about half of under-five deaths worldwide.
  • In the Region, 72% of under-five deaths are due to neonatal causes, pneumonia and diarrhoea. Preterm birth, birth asphyxia (lack of oxygen at birth), and infections cause most neonatal deaths. After the first month of life and through the first five years, the main cause of death is pneumonia in most countries. Malaria remains an important cause of child mortality in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu and a few endemic areas in other countries.
  • Conditions that cause the highest mortality are preventable and treatable through simple, affordable interventions. Strengthening health systems to provide such interventions to all children will save many young lives.
  • Variations in mortality are noted within and among countries by geographic area, maternal education, rural or urban residence, birth interval, and wealth. Children in low- and middle-income countries are nearly 18 times more likely to die before the age of five than children in high-income countries.
  • Undernutrition is the underlying contributing factor in over one third of all child deaths – it makes children more vulnerable to severe disease and death.


* World Health Statistics 2015. World Health Organization, 2015
** Levels and Trends in Child Mortality Report 2014. United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, 2014.