An estimated 5 million children died before their fifth birthday and another 2.1 million children and youth aged between 5–24 years lost their lives in 2021, according to the latest estimates published by the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME) in the Levels & Trends in Child Mortality report.
In a separate report, Never Forgotten, the group found that 1.9 million babies were stillborn during the same period, with almost half of all stillbirths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. Tragically, many of these deaths could have been prevented with equitable access and high-quality maternal, newborn, adolescent and child health care.
54 countries will fall short of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target for under-five mortality, with UN agencies warning that almost 59 million children and youth will die before 2030, with nearly 16 million babies being lost to stillbirth if swift action is not taken to improve health services.
Dr Hannah Blencowe, Associate Professor at LSHTM and Clinician, who contributed to the stillbirth report, said: “These new estimates highlight the large health inequalities in our world…Millions of pregnant women are unable to access high quality health care during pregnancy and childbirth resulting in many preventable stillbirths.
“The gaps are greatest in sub-Saharan Africa where almost half of all stillbirths occur…Leadership, political will and investment is urgently needed to close these gaps.”
The reports are the first of a series of important data sets released in 2023, with UN maternal mortality figures to be published later this year.
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