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U.N. report: Fewer and fewer children under age 5 are dying worldwide

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Globally, deaths of children under 5 have fallen by more than 50% since the start of the century. NPR's Gabrielle Emanuel has more on the findings of a new United Nations report.

GABRIELLE EMANUEL, BYLINE: Researchers have long been tracking a drop in child mortality, but the latest round of numbers crosses a new threshold. Four point nine million kids died in 2022 before their fifth birthday.

HELGA FOGSTAD: We have never been under the 5-million mark, so this is historic.

EMANUEL: Helga Fogstad is the health director for UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, which produced the report. She says this progress is the result of a slew of interventions, from vaccination efforts to improved nutrition to access to antibiotics.

FOGSTAD: This has been done by governments, NGOs, donors, health care professionals and also families.

EMANUEL: But Fogstad says 4.9 million deaths is far too many, and a lot are preventable.

FOGSTAD: Pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria. We know how to treat all these.

EMANUEL: The report finds big differences from one place to the next. A kiddo born in sub-Saharan Africa is 18 times more likely to die before their fifth birthday than one born in Australia. There are also big gaps within countries and between age groups. Deaths among newborns, for example, have not dropped as quickly as for older kids. Ole Norheim is with the department of global public health at the University of Bergen. He says there are cheap interventions, but they aren't common everywhere - things like prenatal screening, breastfeeding and...

OLE NORHEIM: What is called kangaroo mother care. Putting the child close to the skin immediately after birth can also reduce mortality with as much as 25%.

EMANUEL: While there's a long way to go, he calls the current progress on reducing childhood mortality spectacular.

Gabrielle Emanuel, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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