Reducing childhood mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa

The mortality rate of children under five in Sub-Saharan Africa is 17 times higher than those born in developed countries. Researchers at Manchester's Global Development Institute have identified the causes of newborn deaths in the region and are working with NGOs and policymakers to implement long-term solutions.

Global problem: childhood mortality

Each year in Sub-Saharan Africa an estimated 397,000 babies die on the day they are born.

The region accounts for 12% of the world’s population but 38% of the world’s first-day deaths. The region's under-five mortality rate is the highest in the world with 94 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to just 4 per 1,000 live births in industrialized countries.

Since 1990, the annual number of children under five who die each year has been reduced by 43% from 12 million to 6.9 million. This is a significant decline, but isn’t nearly sufficient to meet internationally agreed targets.

Manchester solution: progressing local health policy

Drs Lawrence Ado-Kofie and David Lawson at our Global Development Institute investigated the causes of childhood mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In addition to crippling rates of poverty in many of the region’s countries they identified a number of exacerbating factors, including:

  • severe shortage of health workers
  • premature birth
  • poor maternal health and education
  • malnutrition
  • low birth weight
  • insufficient health care for mothers

Life-changing impacts

The researchers are calling for Sub-Saharan African governments, donor countries and international agencies to commit to providing stronger health systems for mothers and children under 5 in particular.

They also researched the policies and programmes that have been successful in reducing childhood mortality poverty – and the ones that haven’t. The findings are collected in their book, What Works for Africa’s Poorest?, which is available as a free, open access download.

Find out more

Download the free, open access study:

Meet the researchers: