Sep 26, 2020 - Health

Child mortality continues to fall

Data: The World Bank; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: The World Bank; Chart: Axios Visuals

New data shows the mortality rate for children under 5 is continuing to fall, as improvements in nutrition and health reduce the earliest and most tragic deaths.

Why it matters: The continued decline in the youngest deaths is one of humanity's greatest victories, but the COVID-19 pandemic puts some of that progress in danger.

By the numbers: Data released this month by the World Bank shows the mortality rate for children under 5 has fallen by 59% over the past 29 years.

  • That still means 5.2 million children under 5 died in 2019 — or more than 14,000 each day.
  • But as recently as 1960, nearly 1 out of every 5 children globally died before their 5th birthday. In 1800, it was nearly 1 out of every 2.

Of note: Child mortality is increasingly concentrated in a few geographic areas, especially sub-Saharan Africa, where 1 in 13 children die before turning 5.

The catch: Development experts worry COVID-19 could slow or even reverse progress on child mortality, less because of the virus itself than because the pandemic may disrupt distribution of needed medicine and food.

The bottom line: It's entirely reasonable to look at the state of the world today and feel depressed. But there are millions of children alive today who will live to see their 5th birthday and many more, because they were born in 2020 and not 30 years ago. That matters, too.

Go deeper: Over 513,000 U.S. teens, children have been diagnosed with COVID-19

Go deeper