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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
GLOBAL: Under-5 Mortality Drops to Record Low
Christopher Lee
September 13, 2007
Washington Post (09.13.07) - Thursday, September 13, 2007

For the first time, infant mortality has dropped below 10 million deaths worldwide, according to a UNICEF report released Wednesday. There were 9.7 million infant deaths in 2006. Especially "over the last half-decade," deaths of children under age five have dropped as the global community applied health strategies targeting children, said Ann M. Veneman, UNICEF's executive director.

Among the top killers, neonatal problems accounted for 3.6 million deaths; pneumonia for 1.8 million; diarrhea for 1.6 million; malaria for 0.8 million; AIDS for 0.3 million; and other causes for 0.9 million. Often these illnesses are influenced by poverty, malnutrition, and civil conflict.

Last year, there were 72 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with 93 deaths per 1,000 births in 1990. For much of the gains, Veneman cited malaria prevention programs, better diarrhea treatment, and extensive measles vaccinations. There was also a slight increase in the percentage of women in developing countries who breastfed (37 percent in 2006, up from 33 percent in 1996).

Health gains were not globally experienced. There were rapid declines in infant mortality in Latin America, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and East Asia. But progress was less apparent in parts of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, which accounted for about half of infant deaths worldwide. In West and Central Africa, there were 186 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. And in AIDS-prevalent parts of eastern and southern Africa, there were 131 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.