September 13, 2013 10:03AM

Globally, Child Mortality Is Falling Rapidly

According to a UNICEF report that was released earlier today,

In 2012, approximately 6.6 million children worldwide—18,000 children per day—died before reaching their fifth birthday… This is roughly half the number of under-fives who died in 1990, when more than 12 million children died.

Some of the world’s poorest countries, including Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Liberia, Malawi and Nepal, made the greatest progress and met their Millennium Development Goal for the reduction of child deaths ahead of the 2015 deadline. 

Typically, the press quickly credited “global action” for improving health and nutrition in poor countries. This is nonsense. International organizations and aid groups have a terrible record at improving the lives of the people in developing countries. Child mortality in the developing world is declining because poor countries are getting richer. As Charles Kenny of the Center for Global Development wrote,

4.9 billion people—the considerable majority of the planet—[live] … in countries where GDP has increased more than fivefold over 50 years. Those countries include India, with an economy nearly 10 times larger than it was in 1960, Indonesia (13 times), China (17 times), and Thailand (22 times larger than in 1960). Around 5.1 billion people live in countries where we know incomes have more than doubled since 1960, and 4.1 billion—well more than half the planet—live in countries where average incomes have tripled or more....

Even Africa is becoming wealthier. According to the World Bank, between 1990 and 2010, African incomes adjusted for inflation and purchasing power parity rose by 27 percent.

If child mortality in poor countries is eventually reduced to Western levels, it will not be because of aid, but because of continued economic growth that is, in large part, facilitated by further integration of the developing world into the global economy.