(CBS/AP) The United Nations Children's Fund said today that the number of children who die before reaching the age of five has declined by 27 percent over the last 17 years.
UNICEF said Friday that about 9.2 million children under five died last year around the world, compared to 12.7 million children under five who died in 1990.
In the developing world, that accounts for 68 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2007.
On average, there are just six deaths per every 1,000 live births in industrialized countries.
But improvements in child mortality have been made in all regions, including sub-Saharan Africa, where most of the fatalities occur.
In Eritrea the under-five mortality rate declined by 52 per cent between 1990 and 2007. Child mortality rates fell by more than 40 percent in Malawi, Mozambique, Niger and Ethiopia during the same period.
But child mortality in Africa still remains high. The worst rate in the world is in Sierra Leone, where 262 out of every 1,000 children die before their fifth birthday.
One of the contributing causes to more than one-third of child deaths worldwide is under-nutrition. Despite progress in reducing the numbers of underweight children, UNICEF reports there are an estimated 148 million children in the developing world who are undernourished.
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said that improvements in early and exclusive breastfeeding, measles immunization, Vitamin A supplementation, the use of insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent the spread of malaria, and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment - all credited for the improved numbers - are encouraging.
"These interventions are expected to result in further declines in child mortality over the coming years," she said.
Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of the aid agency Save the Children UK, said that the new figures are good news, but warned that high food prices and climate change could reverse those gains.
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