Newborn babies in an Israeli hospital nursery
Newborn babies in an Israeli hospital nursery Israel news photo: Flash 90

Israel is in the top 16th global percentile in reducing the mortality rate of infants and children under five over the past ten years, according to a new report released this week.

Eight million children under the age of five died worldwide in 2009, according to the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) – and that is considered an improvement from ten years ago.

According to the U.N. agency figures published in a special edition of the British medical journal, The Lancet, the global under-five mortality rate dropped by one-third in the past decade, from 12.4 million per year in 1990 to 8.1 million per year in 2009.

Despite what appears to be good news, however, the agency said in a statement that “the tragedy of preventable child deaths continues. Some 22,000 children under five still die each day, with some 70 percent of these deaths occurring in the first year of the child's life.”

The improvement, though significant, is apparently not keeping pace with the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, agreed upon ten years ago. Among other benchmarks, one of the goals calls for a two-thirds reduction in the under-five mortality rate between 1990 and 2015. (A full copy of the report can be seen by clicking here.)

Israel Leads Region in Low Death Rates
Approximately half of all under-five deaths last year occurred in only five countries, according to the report: India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan and China. Of those, India (21 percent) and Nigeria (10 percent) together accounted for nearly a third of the deaths. About 40 percent of the deaths occur before a baby completes its first month of life, said UNICEF, and 70 percent occur within the first year of life.

Israel is one of the countries that was declared “on track” by the agency. In 1990, there were 11 under-five deaths per 1,000 live births. By contrast, in 2009, there were four – the target set for the Jewish State as the Millennium Development Goal for 2015.
The absolute number of under-five deaths was the same in 1990 as it was in 2009 – about 1,000.

In 1990, the infant mortality rate in the Jewish State was 10 per 1,000 live births – a figure that had dropped to only 3 per 1,000 live births by 2009.

By contrast, in nearby Egypt, the figures are drastically different, although Cairo surpassed its 2015 Millennium Development Goal of 30 deaths per 1,000 children under 5.

In 1990, there were 90 under-five deaths per 1,000 live births, a number that went down drastically to 21 under-five deaths per 1,000 in 2009. There were 186,000 under-five deaths in Egypt in 1990 – a number that had dropped to 42,000 by 2009. Of those, 138,000 in 1990 were infants; in 2009, 36,000 Egyptian infants died.

Jordan, considered one of the most modern Arab nations, also had figures that were somewhat different from those in Israel, and has not yet reached its Millennium Development goal of 13.

In 1990, there were 39 under-five deaths per 1,000 live births, a rate that dropped to 25 per 1,000 live births by 2009. Five thousand under-fives died in 1990 in the Hashemite Kingdom, a figure that dropped by only 1,000 – to 4,000, ten years later.

According to UNICEF, although from 1990 to 2009 there was a statistical drop in the infant death rate in Jordan, from 32 down to 22 per 1,000 live births, the number of actual deaths recorded stayed the same, at 4,000, over the ten year span.