From the Editor

Child mortality in South Africa: Fewer deaths, but better data are needed

L J Bamford, N H McKerrow, P Barron, Y Aung


South Africa is committed to reducing under-5 mortality rates in line with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets. Policymakers and healthcare service managers require accurate and complete data on the number and causes of child deaths to plan and monitor healthcare service delivery and health outcomes. This study aimed to review nationally representative data on under-5 mortality and the cause of deaths among children under 5 years of age. We also reviewed systems that are currently used for generating these data. Child mortality has declined substantially in the past decade. Under-5 mortality in 2015 is estimated at 37 - 40 deaths per 1 000 live births, with an estimated infant mortality rate of 27 - 33 deaths per 1 000 live births. Approximately one-third of under-5 deaths occur during the newborn period, while diarrhoea, pneumonia and HIV infection remain the most important causes of death outside of the newborn period. The proportion of deaths owing to non-natural causes, congenital disorders and non-communicable diseases has increased. 

However, many discrepancies in data collected through different systems are noted, especially at the sub-national level. There is a need to improve the completeness and accuracy of existing data systems and to strengthen reconciliation and triangulation of data.

Authors' affiliations

L J Bamford, National Department of Health, Pretoria, South Africa

N H McKerrow, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health; and Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

P Barron, School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Y Aung, UNICEF, Pretoria, South Africa

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Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2018;108(3a):s25-s32. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2017.v108i3b.12779

Article History

Date submitted: 2018-03-02
Date published: 2018-03-02

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