Early Childhood Deaths Fall Below Nine Million Worldwide

09.10.09 | FL News Team

(Mpata, Malawi) -- The global effort to boost the chances of children surviving past their fifth birthday has reached an important mark.  Data from UNICEF shows the number of children dying before they reach the age of five each year has dropped below 9 million for the first time since records were first kept in 1960.

The child mortality rate has declined by more than a quarter in the last two decades, going from 12.5 million in 1990 to 8.8 million last year.

"The New York Times" cites health experts as saying relatively inexpensive technologies such as measles vaccines and anti-malaria nets have played a role.  The effort has also been aided by wealthy nations, international agencies and philanthropists such as Bill and Melinda Gates.

However, the challenge set by global leaders to slash the child mortality rate by two-thirds by 2015 clearly still exists.  Experts say more attention must be given to the two leading causes of child deaths: Pneumonia and diarrhea.