Less than 7 million kids younger than five died in 2011, according to a new report from the United Nations, but around 19,000 of those deaths were preventable.
The United Nation's Children Fund (UNICEF) says the number of under-five deaths has declined drastically since 1990, when an estimated 12 million children died. In 2010, there were 7.6 million deaths, and that number fell to 6.9 million in 2011.
"The fact remains that, on average, around 19,000 children still die every day from largely preventable causes," said the report. "With necessary vaccines, adequate nutrition and basic medical and maternal care, most of these young lives could be saved."
The problem areas are clear. According to the report, more than 80 percent of under-five deaths worldwide happened in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Sub-Saharan Africa alone accounted for nearly half the global total; there, one in nine kids dies before their fifth birthday – and that's after a 39 percent decline that's taken place since 1990.
Across the board, says the report, "the least developed countries consistently have higher rates of under-five mortality" than wealthier countries.
Still, about half of 2011's deaths happened in just five countries: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, China and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). With the exception of the DRC, those are all "populous, middle-income countries."
But big improvements were made, too. Consider the worldwide shift: The move from 12 million under-five deaths a year to 6.9 million marked a 41-percent drop.
A lot of countries have also seen some pretty astonishing declines in their individual under-five mortality rates since 1990, like Laos (72 percent), Liberia (68 percent), Cambodia (64 percent) and Haiti (51 percent).
UNICEF attributes this to a lot of gains on a lot of fronts: medicine, health care, development, education, child protection, human rights and the economy, to name a few. The agency also cites the "resolute determination" of leaders and the international community to keep kids alive and well.
Singapore, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Japan are among the countries with the lowest under-five mortality rates, which refers to the chance a kid has of making it past five years old. In all five of those countries, the rate is less than five deaths per 1,000 live births.
The United States ranks pretty high but isn't at the top. For every 1,000 U.S. kids, eight won't make it to their fifth birthday, tying it in the international rankings with Antigua and Barbuda.
According to Los Angeles County's 2012 Health Status Profile, just under 800 infants died between 2007 and 2009, for a death rate of more than about five babies per 1,000 live births. [Download spreadsheet for source.]
You can read "Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed" in its entirety here.
Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt via Flickr Creative Commons.