Child-mortality rates in developing countries are decreasing. In 2012, the United Nations estimated that worldwide mortality rates for children under the age of five have dropped by 47 percent since 1990. But what does this decline indicate about the mortality gap between the poorest and wealthiest families within those countries?
To compare wealth status and under-5 child-mortality within a country, Bendavid used data from the demographic and health surveys for 1.2 million women living in 929,224 households in 54 developing countries. The women provided information about their children’s survival status.
His findings showed that the child-mortality gap has narrowed between the poorest and wealthiest households in the majority of over 50 developing countries between 1995 and 2012.
The converging mortality gap was mostly driven by the fact that under-5 child-mortality rates declined the fastest among the poorest families. Bendavid said the finding supports international aid efforts that target communicable diseases such as malaria, diarrhea and respiratory illness that disproportionately affect the poorest families in developing countries. Davidson Gwatkin, a senior fellow at the Results for Development Institute who was not involved in the study, agreed saying:
Dr. Bendavid’s study is an important contribution to knowledge about child health improvements in the developing world ... It makes a persuasive case that these improvements have often begun to benefit the poor even more than the better-off.
Yet not all the developing countries experienced this positive trend. In a quarter of the countries involved in the study, under-5 mortality inequality actually increased. Bendavid found a common theme among these countries: poor governance.
Bendavid noted in the release that his findings are important for making decisions about how to effectively promote health equality by prioritizing global health investments. He said:
We have the technologies, we have the means, we have the know-how to reduce child mortality dramatically ... Even for such low-hanging fruit, however, implementation is not always easy. You have to have government that enables basic safety, and the ability to reach poor and rural communities that benefit from these kinds of programs.
Previously: Foreign health care aid delivers the goods, Foreign aid for health extends life, saves children, Stanford study finds, Stanford researchers say evidence doesn't support claims that international aid is wasted and PEDFAR has saved lives — and not just from HIV/AIDS, Stanford study finds,
Photo by: United Nations Photo