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Does one in 10 children in Nigeria die before their 5th birthday?

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  • A report on inequality by Oxfam International said one in 10 children in Nigeria died before the age of five.

  • UN data puts Nigeria’s under-five mortality rate at 100 per 1,000 children – or one in 10. Nigerian data points to an even higher rate.

  • Child mortality varies across Nigerian states, but the rate of child deaths has fallen since 2000.

Nigeria’s social spending is shamefully low, states the ‘best and worst’ section of Oxfam’s commitment to reducing inequality index.

The index ranked Nigeria in last place for the second consecutive year and noted among other things that “one in 10 children in Nigeria does not reach their fifth birthday”.

Does the charity’s claim about under-five mortality, republished by Nigerian newspapers, line up with the most reliable data available?

United Nations data on child deaths

Oxfam said the World Bank’s infant mortality figures were the source of its data for the claim. The World Bank, in turn, sourced the data from the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation report published in September 2018.

This put under-five mortality in Nigeria at a 100 per 1,000 children in 2017 - or one in 10 children.

The UN inter-agency group’s estimates come from household surveys, censuses and vital registration data. The estimates from different data sources by country are then fit into a statistical model to create average estimates.

Nigerian statistics showed a higher rate

The estimate is slightly lower than what Nigeria’s most recent local survey found.

The multi- indicator cluster survey sampled over 37,000 households across Nigeria from September 2016 to January 2017. It put the under-five mortality rate at 120 per 1,000 children during the five years before the survey.

Women aged 15 to 49 were asked if they had “given birth to a boy or girl who was born alive but later died” and the age of the child at death.

The region with the highest mortality rate was the North West at 162 per 1,000 children. North West’s Zamfara state recorded the highest rate: 210 per 1,000.

The South South had the lowest regional rate of 59 per 1,000 children. Kwara state in the North Central region had the lowest rate of 45 per 1,000.

Rate of child deaths has fallen

The reason that the UN estimate is lower is that it was calculated for one year, Dr David Sharrow, a demographer and statistician at Unicef, told Africa Check. He co-authored the inter-agency’s 2018 report.

“[Our] annual estimate for the year 2017 falls between 72 and 138 with a median estimate of 100 deaths per 1,000 live births.”

Sharrow said their latest estimate showed that Nigeria’s under-five mortality rate had been reduced by 46% since 2000 based on the different survey results in the country.

‘Slight improvement despite low budget and mismanagement’

Interventions over the years have helped to reduce child mortality rates in Nigeria, despite a low health budget and misapplication of funds, Prof Tanimola Akande told Africa Check. He teaches epidemiology and community health at the University of Ilorin,

Akande said donor-sponsored programmes had reduced disease the most.

“There are often leakages in government programmes. Allocated funds are not properly monitored and so such programmes become inefficient.

“However, malaria, which is a big killer of under-fives, is being tackled with interventions such as the distribution of mosquito nets and combination therapy for malaria. Diarrhoeal diseases and respiratory tract infections are also being controlled.”

Malaria and diarrhoea were among the top five causes of death among children under five in Nigeria, the UN Inter-agency for Child Mortality Estimation reported in 2016. The others were pneumonia, preterm birth complications, and childbirth complications.

Conclusion: UN data supports claim that one in 10 children in Nigeria dies before fifth birthday

Oxfam International, a charity that works to reduce poverty, claimed in a report on inequality that one in 10 children in Nigeria does not reach their fifth birthday.

Oxfam’s claim came from the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, which published estimates produced by a statistical model that draws from nationally representative data sources.  

An expert said the under-five mortality rate had declined slightly in recent years but still varied significantly across Nigeria’s states.

Edited by David Ajikobi

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