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Infant mortality in Africa: downward trajectory and a safer future

A LOT of progress has been made in Africa over the last few decades, but there can be few examples more crucial to the continent than this. According to German research company Statista, in 1955, infant mortality was at 183 – that’s 183 children under the age of one dying for every 1,000 live births.

That figure has decreased dramatically in the years since, with progress as of 2020 marked by a reduction of 136 – making the infant mortality rate 47.

As Statista’s research expert for historical data, Aaron O’Neill, explains: ‘While the reduction rate varies on a country-by-country basis, the overall decline can be attributed in large part to the expansion of healthcare services, improvements in nutrition and access to clean drinking water, and the implementation of large-scale immunisation campaigns across the continent.’

Addressing the visible halt in progress in the 1990’s, O’Neill explains: ‘The temporary slowdown has been attributed in part to rapid urbanisation of many parts of the continent that coincided with poor economic performance, resulting in the creation of overcrowded slums with poor access to health and sanitation services.’

While Africa’s current rate is still far behind the likes of Europe (4) and the United States (7), United Nations projections predict the current rate in Asia (25) to be reached in Africa by around 2050. There remains a lot of work to be done though of course, and as described by O’Neill, large regional differences still exist: ‘There remains a significant imbalance in the continent, with Sub-Saharan countries experiencing much higher child mortality rates than those in North Africa.’

This chart shows the infant mortality rate in Africa (deaths under 1 year old per 1,000 live births) from 1955 to 2020 and projected to 2100.

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