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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UMass Amherst Faculty Part of UN Inter-agency Team Researching Child Mortality

Dr. Leontine Alkema, Assistant Professor of Biostatistics at UMass Amherst, is part of a UNICEF-led team of researchers working on behalf of the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME) that recently co-authored a study published in The Lancet.

Leontine Alkema2015
[Photo: Dr. Leontine Alkema]

Within the team, Dr. Alkema led the development of the statistical modeling approach that was used to construct the child mortality estimates in the study.

Dr. Alkema and her co-authors revealed that while there has been substantial progress toward targets set by the UN in the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) time period of 1990-2015, only 62 of 195 countries have met the MDG target of reducing the under-5 mortality rate (U5MR) by 66 percent. According to the article, titled “Global, regional, and national levels and trends in under-5 mortality between 1990 and 2015, with scenario-based projections to 2030: a systematic analysis by the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation,” the global U5MR reduced by 53 percent in the last 25 years. West and Central Africa continue to have the highest U5MR in the world. The data show that two regions – East Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean – achieved the target. At the country level, 62 countries achieved the MDG target. Among them, 24 are low- and lower-middle income countries, from a variety of world regions—including Ethiopia, Eritrea, Bangladesh, Georgia, El Salvador, Bolivia, Egypt, Cambodia, Nepal and Yemen.

The study is the first to include U5MR estimates up to 2015 and include scenario-based projections from 2016 to 2030. Dr. Alkema and her colleagues show that if current mortality rates are maintained, 94 million children would die in 2016-2030, while if the newly proposed UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of 25 or fewer under-5 deaths per 1000 live births by 2030 would be met, the death toll in under 5s would be 56 million. In order to achieve the SDG target on under-five mortality, a total of 47 countries would need to accelerate their progress in reducing the U5MR.

Dr. Alkema and her fellow researchers conclude that urgent action is still needed in the regions and countries with high under-5 mortality rates, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. They write, “Every child’s death represents the loss of a unique human being. Countries and the international community must take immediate action to further accelerate the pace of progress to fulfil children’s rights to health and development.”

For more information, read the Lancet publication here:, or visit: