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Current Status + Progress

Neonatal mortality (death in the first month of life) is of special concern since the interventions needed to address it are different from those needed for older children. From 1990 to 2012, the world’s neonatal mortality rate fell from 33 deaths to 21 deaths per 1,000 live births. All regions saw declines, with lesser – though still significant – drops in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa (39 per cent and 28 per cent, respectively). The overall result was a reduction in neonatal deaths globally from 4.6 million in 1990 to 2.9 million in 2012.

Declines in neonatal mortality have come about more slowly than declines in mortality among older children. Therefore, the share of neonatal deaths in overall deaths in children under 5 is increasing – from about 37 per cent in 1990 to 44 per cent in 2012. This trend is expected to continue. 

Neonatal deaths make up a growing share of under-five deaths worldwide

Source: UNICEF analysis based on estimates developed by the IGME, as published in: UNICEF, Committing to Child Survival: A promise renewed – Progress report 2013, UNICEF, New York, 2013.

Death in the first month of life is typically caused by diseases or conditions that are readily preventable or treatable with proven, cost-effective interventions. Globally, more than one fifth of neonatal deaths in 2012 were the result of sepsis and meningitis (12 per cent) and pneumonia (10 per cent), all of which are treatable, provided simple interventions and basic treatment knowledge are available. Another 34 per cent of neonatal deaths were caused by preterm birth complications, the majority of which are preventable.

Most neonatal deaths are due to preventable causes

Source: UNICEF analysis based on IGME, drawing on provisional analyses by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group (CHERG) 2013. See also Liu, L., et al., ‘Global, Regional, and National Causes of Child Mortality: An updated systematic analysis for 2010 with time trends since 2000’,  Lancet, vol. 379, no. 9832, 9 June 2012, pp. 2151─2161; WHO, ‘WHO-CHERG Methods and Data Sources for Child Causes of Death 2000─2011’, Global Health Estimates Technical Paper WHO/HIS/HSI/GHE/2013.2, WHO, Geneva.

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Neonatal mortality
Neonatal mortality rate (Trend data including uncertainty ranges) Download Data
Number of neonatal deaths Download Data
Notes on the Data

See notes under the under-five mortality topic