A new study mapping child deaths for over two decades has shown that Nigeria currently leads countries with the highest mortality rates of children under the age of five even as it records 789, 037 deaths of children in 2017. The study, which also revealed that about 15, 000 children die every day worldwide, showed that despite progress made in achieving the United Nations’ target for child survival by countries, about 789, 037 children died before age five in 2017 as compared to 1,011,620 deaths in 2000.
Although, the study found a downward trend of the number of children dying before their fifth birthday in Nigeria, the country still scored highest in the estimated child death rate in 2000 with over 300 deaths per 1,000 births and195 deaths per 1,000 births in 2017 among 99 countries studied by the researchers. The study carried out by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine; found that 789,037 children died before their fifth birthdays in 2017, as compared to 1,011,620 in 2000.
It further found that the likelihood of a child reaching age 5 varies nearly four-fold among local government areas in Nigeria. The researchers also revealed that the biggest causes of these deaths were mostly due to neonatal disorders both in 2000 and 2017. According to the study, the highest mortality rate in 2017 at the level of local government areas was 195.1 in Garki, Abuja, while the lowest was 52.0 in Egor, Nassarawa state. It also showed decreases in deaths from diarrhoea and lower respiratory infections accounted for 40 percent of the overall drops in child deaths over the study period.
The study which was the first of its kind, mapping child deaths in 99 low- and middle-income countries at the level of individual districts was published in the journal Nature. Across all countries studied, the likelihood of a child dying before age 5 varied more than 40-fold at the district level. The study found that the highest estimated child death rate in 2000 at the local level was just over 300 deaths per 1,000 births. In 2017, the highest rate was 195 deaths per 1,000 births. Both were in Nigeria.
They estimated that if every district in the low- and middle-income countries studied had met the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets of at least as low as 25 child deaths per 1,000 live births, 2.6 million fewer children would have died. If every district within a country rose to the level of the best-performing district in that country, the estimated number of deaths averted rises to 2.7 million.
Reacting to the study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the senior author on the study and Director of the Local Burden of Disease (LBD) group at IHME, Dr. Simon I. Hay, said: “It is as reprehensible as it is tragic that, on average, nearly 15,000 children under age 5 die every day. In 43 countries studied, the district with the worst child mortality rate in 2017 was still better than the district with the best child mortality rate in 2000.