5 Alarming Facts about Global Child Mortality Rates

A mother and and a baby in the Child Friendly Space of Save the children in Lesvos.

All babies deserve a healthy and vibrant start to life, but for some, just surviving until their fifth birthday is a challenge. Many of the world’s youngest citizens struggle simply because of where they were born or the socioeconomic status of their parents.

This is strikingly clear in Save the Children’s new report, The Many Faces of Exclusion. The annual report takes a look at issues forcing children to grow up too quickly or robbing them of a healthy childhood, such as gender-based discrimination, poverty and conflict.

To be candid, this can be a tough topic to discuss. No one wants to think about children suffering, much less dig into the details of it. But the more we recognize and process the issues at hand, the better we become at addressing the root causes. By getting a little uncomfortable and learning more about the struggles that real children face, we can raise awareness and take action that helps give all children the childhoods they deserve.

So, in the spirit of growth and learning, here are 5 facts taken from the report that may surprise you: 1

1. More than 15,000 children under the age of 5 die every day, mostly from preventable or treatable causes such as diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition. Equally concerning, a growing percentage of those deaths are babies less than a month old. Annually, one million newborns will die on the very day they are born.

2. Child deaths are increasingly concentrated in countries with the fewest resources. 65% of all births take place in low- and lower-middle-income countries—such as Mongolia and Vietnam. However, these countries account for 90% of all childhood deaths under 5. This is up from 79% of child deaths in 1990.

3. High-income countries also have large equity gaps in child survival. 75,000 children die annually in developed regions. These children overwhelmingly come from disadvantaged backgrounds and communities. For example, in the United States, infants from indigenous communities die at a rate 40% higher than the national average.

4. Globally, 155 million children under age 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition. Chronic malnutrition, also known as stunting, can have devastating long-term effects for children. New research suggests that, in addition to setbacks in physical growth, stunted children have trouble meeting basic milestones in their cognitive and emotional development. Sadly, much of this damage happens in pregnancy.

5. Chronic malnutrition is also increasingly concentrated in countries with the fewest resources. Nearly 90% of stunted children—about 139 million children—live in low- and lower-middle-income countries. This is up from 70% of stunted children in 1990.

There is one more fact that’s worth remembering: we are making progress in child survival. The U.S. has played a leading role in the global effort to improve child survival. With this support, the mortality rate for children under 5 has reduced by more than half since 1990. It has also improved access to quality health care – including immunizations and treatment of pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria and other diseases.

Currently, there is bipartisan legislation in Congress called the Reach Every Mother and Child Act that would increase access to low-cost, high-impact interventions where they are needed most. These simple practices, such as skin-to-skin contact for newborns or access to quality care services, save lives.

If the facts above moved you, please take action and urge Congress to pass this crucial legislation. By using our voices and our votes, we can make a difference for children around the world. Together, let’s work to ensure that next year’s data shows that more kids not only survive, but live to experience healthy, fulfilling childhoods.

Take action today! Urge Congress to help more children survive.

[1] All facts are courtesy of Save the Children’s report, The Many Faces of Exclusion. Read the full report: https://campaigns.savethechildren.net/sites/campaigns.savethechildren.net/files/report/EndofChildhood_Report_2018_ENGLISH.pdf