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Infant and Child Mortality
Infant mortality rate (IMR):
The number of deaths of infants under age 1 per 1,000 live births in a given year.
In less developed countries, the chances of dying are greatest at infancy and remain
high during the first few years of childhood. A newborn child is fragile and has not
developed immunities to common ailments. When a country has a high rate of
infant death, it usually signals high mortality risk from infectious, parasitic,
communicable, and other diseases associated with poor sanitary conditions and
malnourishment. As a result, the infant mortality rate (IMR), or annual number
of deaths of children under age 1 per 1,000 live births, is considered one of the most
sensitive measures of a nation's health.
World Infant Mortality Rates
in Selected Countries, 2000
Worldwide about 8 million babies die annually
before their first birthday. As the chart below
"Deaths to children under age 5 by main cause"
indicates, two of the primary causes of infant and
child deaths are acute respiratory diseases — such
as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and influenza — and
diarrhea. Other infectious diseases, such as
measles, are also major causes of deaths to infants
and children. Death from these conditions is almost
unheard of for infants in more developed countries.
But in less developed countries where
malnourishment weakens small bodies, medical
facilities are scarce, and living areas may be unsanitary, infant deaths are
common. In 2000, world IMRs range from 2.6 per 1,000 births in Iceland to 157 per
1,000 in Sierra Leone.
As countries develop economically, infant mortality usually declines. The IMR in
the United States was probably about 100 in 1900 — around the level of the IMRs
of some of the poorest countries in the world today. The IMR in the United States
has now fallen to below 10. Many countries have even lower rates, with Japan,
Sweden, and Finland heading the list
Death to Children under Age 5 by Main Cause
In Less Developed Countries, 1995