UN Population Fund reports child mortality, birth, and reproduction statistics

January 31, 2013

The UN reports that the US mortality rate for US children under 5 is lower than most countries, but our adolescent birth rate is higher than many.

The mortality rate for US children younger than 5 years is about 8 per 1,000 live births, according to numbers in a report from the United Nations Population Fund.

That’s lower than the rates in most other countries, but there are 36 nations that have lower rates than the United States. Countries with a mortality rate of 4 or lower are the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Israel, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.

There are 27 countries, most in Africa, where the rate is higher than 100. The top rate is 195 in Chad but also is 184 in Afghanistan.

The adolescent birth rate also varies greatly around the world. It’s reported to be 39 per 1,000 US women aged 15 to  19 years. Of the 188 total nations in the world, 82 have a lower rate. Japan, the Netherlands, and Slovenia have a rate of 5; Switzerland, Libya, and Algeria have a rate of 4. Higher rates tend to be in less-developed countries, with 35 countries having a rate of more than 100 and Niger having the top rate of 199.

The UN report (www.unfpa.org/webdav/site/global/shared/swp/2012/EN_SWP2012_Report.pdf) points to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics indicating that 46% of all US high school students have had sex, but in European countries that have similar rates, the outcomes are different. Research indicates that US teenaged girls are far more likely to experience birth, pregnancy, and abortion than are European girls.

“The differences,” says the report, “are attributable to European policies that facilitate easier access to sexual health information and services for school-aged girls and boys and that respect young people’s rights and support their health.”

The statistics put the US maternal death ratio at 21 per 100,000 live births; however, 44 countries have lower rates, and 29 countries have rates lower than 10. The rate is 4 or lower in Austria, Belarus, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Singapore, and Sweden.

“Compared to adult women, younger mothers are 2 to  5 times more likely to die during childbirth, and the risk of maternal death is highest among girls who have children before their fifteenth birthdays,” the report states.

Forty-four percent of the world’s population is now younger than 25 years, and the need for services is huge.

“In sub-Saharan Africa and South Central and Southeast Asia, more than 60% of adolescents who wish to avoid a pregnancy have an unmet need for modern contraception,” it says. It also indicates adolescents and youth have 40% of unsafe abortions around the globe.

Adolescent girls are increasingly likely to initiate having sex outside of marriage, “though often with a future husband,” the report says.

“Declines in age at menarche are likely to contribute to increased reproductive health risks, for young women, increasing the number of years between menarche and marriage,” it indicates.

There have been declines in the rate of child marriage, but it still remains common in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Few family-planning networks have strategies for girls who marry early, because they are at risk of adverse events from early pregnancy and childbirth.

The statistics show that of 867 million women in developing countries who need modern contraceptives, 222 million do not have access to them.