Research Highlight

A global map shows inequality in child deaths

doi:10.1038/nindia.2019.139 Published online 21 October 2019

Using a specific survival tool, researchers have mapped the variation in mortality rates and the number of deaths among very young children in across 99 low- and middle-income countries.

Globally, the number of children under five dying every year has declined from 19.6 million in 1950 to 5.4 million in 2017. A previous study provided comprehensive estimates of child mortality rates in African countries. However, child mortality rates in other countries remained largely unknown.

With a statistical model, an international research team, including Indian scientists from the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases in Kolkata, the Gandhi Medical College in Bhopal and the Institute of Public Health in Kalyani, estimated the death counts and mortality rates of children under five, infants and newborns for each year from 2000 to 2017. 

The model included socioeconomic, environmental and health factors related to child mortality and was applied to a large dataset composed of national household surveys and censuses. 

Across these 99 countries, the researchers estimated that mortality rates under five varied as much as 24-fold at the national level in 2017. The highest rate of 123.9 deaths per 1,000 live births was in the Central African Republic of the Congo and the lowest rate of 5.1 deaths in Cuba.  

At the national level, the largest number of child deaths in 2017 occurred in India, Nigeria, Pakistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.   

The researchers say that this study, providing a high-resolution map of child deaths, can help decision-makers to design policy and programmes to check child deaths by 2030.


1. Burstein, R. et al. Mapping 123 million neonatal, infant and child deaths between 2000 and 2017. Nature. (2019) doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1545-0