Indicator 18. Neonatal, infant, and under-5 mortality rates (modified MDG Indicator)

Rationale and definition:

The under-5 mortality rate is the probability for a child to die before reaching the age of five, if subject to current age-specific mortality rates. The neonatal (<28 days) and infant (<1 year) mortality rates are important subcomponents within under-5 mortality. This indicator measures child health and survival and is expressed as the number of deaths per 1,000 live births. It captures more than 90 percent of global mortality among children under the age of 18. Data on disease incidence are frequently unavailable, so mortality rates are used.1


Data should be heavily disaggregated (including by geographical location) so as to identify particularly vulnerable populations.

Comments and limitations:

The neonatal (<28 days) and infant (<1 year) mortality rates are important to include as past trends show slower declines in neonatal and infant deaths than among children age 1 to 4.2

Preliminary assessment of current data availability by Friends of the Chair:


Primary data source:

Complete vital statistics registration systems are the most reliable data source, but these are rare in developing countries so household surveys are often used.

Potential lead agency or agencies:

UNICEF, WHO, and the UN Population Division report on infant and child mortality. Data collection on neonatal mortality rates will need to be improved.

  1. UNICEF, WHO, World Bank and UNPD (2007). Levels and Trends of Child Mortality in 2006: Estimates developed by the Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation. New York, NY: UNICEF, 9.

  2. Ibid.