Global efforts to promote childhood immunisation, breast-feeding and anti-malaria measures have helped cut the death rate of children under age five since 1990 by nearly a quarter, according to UNICEF.UNICEF itself should be congratulated for this report. Obviously the increasing living standards in poor countries are a result of many factors, but the efforts of UNICEF in reporting these changes and doing the statistical analysis, as well as providing expert advice to world governments, means that they should share in the plaudits.
Strong improvements in China and India helped drive a decline in worldwide child mortality, but children still died at very high rates in large regions of Africa south of the Sahara, United Nations Children's Fund figures showed.
UNICEF said 9.7 million children under the age of five died worldwide in 2006. Nearly half, 4.8 million, were in Sub-Saharan Africa where the AIDS virus hampered progress, said UNICEF chief of global health, Dr Peter Salama.
Worldwide, the death rate for children under age five was 72 per 1,000 live births in 2006. Dr Salama said that despite the recent progress, two-thirds of child deaths worldwide could be prevented using currently available health measures.
"We're below 10 million deaths for the first time," he said.
"It could be, really, that this is the tipping point - that we now see a dramatic decline from here on in."