Child health highlights from WHO’s health statistics report


An Indian medical volunteer administers a dose of oral vaccine to a child during a national immunisation programme in Hyderabad on February 19, 2012.


Noah Seelam

Today the World Health Organization published its annual World Health Statistics report, which presents the most recent health data for WHO member states and reports on countries’ progress toward the health-related UN Millennium Development Goals.

The report examined a wide range of statistics for 194 countries in nine areas, including life expectancy and mortality, infectious diseases, health inequities, and health spending. 

“Our statistics show that overall the gaps are closing between the most-advantaged and least-advantaged countries of the world,” said Dr. Ties Boerma, Director of the Department of Health Statistics and Information Systems at WHO, in a press release. “However, the situation is far from satisfactory as progress is uneven and large gaps persist between and within countries. ”

Included in WHO’s report are key statistics related to child health. Here are a few: 

• Around the world, the number of children who die under the age of 5 has dropped by more than 40 percent — from 12 million in 1990 to 6.9 million in 2011.

• Children in low-income countries are 16 times more likely to die before age 5 than those in high-income countries.

• While 27 countries have reached the MDG target related to child health in advance of the 2015 deadline, most have not – and at current rates, the world is not on track to meet the goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds of 1990 levels.

• India has, by far, the greatest number of children who die under the age of 5 each year: 1.7 million children in 2011. Sierra Leone has the highest rate of child mortality: 185 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011.

• Six largely preventable causes lead to around 75 percent of child deaths worldwide: neonatal causes, pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and measles.

• Under-nutrition contributes to more than a third of all child deaths. Over-nutrition is also a concern – and the number of children who are overweight doubled between 1990 and 2011 in both WHO’s African and European regions.

• The gap in child mortality rates between countries with the best health status and the lowest health status has narrowed in the last two decades, dropping from 171 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 107 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011. Still, those “top” countries had a more significant drop in their child mortality rates than those “bottom” countries.

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