Background: The Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4) is to reduce by two-thirds the mortality rate of children younger than 5 years, between 1990 and 2015. The 2012 Countdown profile shows that Niger has achieved far greater reductions in child mortality and gains in coverage for interventions in child survival than neighbouring countries in west Africa. Countdown therefore invited Niger to do an in-depth analysis of their child survival programme between 1998 and 2009.
Methods: We developed new estimates of child and neonatal mortality for 1998-2009 using a 2010 household survey. We recalculated coverage indicators using eight nationally-representative surveys for that period, and documented maternal, newborn, and child health programmes and policies since 1995. We used the Lives Saved Tool (LiST) to estimate the child lives saved in 2009.
Findings: The mortality rate in children younger than 5 years declined significantly from 226 deaths per 1000 livebirths (95% CI 207-246) in 1998 to 128 deaths (117-140) in 2009, an annual rate of decline of 5·1%. Stunting prevalence decreased slightly in children aged 24-35 months, and wasting declined by about 50% with the largest decreases in children younger than 2 years. Coverage increased greatly for most child survival interventions in this period. Results from LiST show that about 59,000 lives were saved in children younger than 5 years in 2009, attributable to the introduction of insecticide-treated bednets (25%); improvements in nutritional status (19%); vitamin A supplementation (9%); treatment of diarrhoea with oral rehydration salts and zinc, and careseeking for fever, malaria, or childhood pneumonia (22%); and vaccinations (11%).
Interpretation: Government policies supporting universal access, provision of free health care for pregnant women and children, and decentralised nutrition programmes permitted Niger to decrease child mortality at a pace that exceeds that needed to meet the MDG 4.
Funding: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; World Bank; Governments of Australia, Canada, Norway, Sweden, and the UK; and UNICEF.
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