Background: The progress to achieve the fourth Millennium Development Goal in reducing mortality rate in children younger than 5 years since 1990 has been remarkable. However, work remains to be done in the Sustainable Development Goal era. Estimates of under-5 mortality rates at the national level can hide disparities within countries. We assessed disparities in under-5 mortality rates by household economic status in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs).
Method: We estimated country-year-specific under-5 mortality rates by wealth quintile on the basis of household wealth indices for 137 LMICs from 1990 to 2016, using a Bayesian statistical model. We estimated the association between quintile-specific and national-level under-5 mortality rates. We assessed the levels and trends of absolute and relative disparity in under-5 mortality rate between the poorest and richest quintiles, and among all quintiles.
Findings: In 2016, for all LMICs (excluding China), the aggregated under-5 mortality rate was 64·6 (90% uncertainty interval [UI] 61·1-70·1) deaths per 1000 livebirths in the poorest households (first quintile), 31·3 (29·5-34·2) deaths per 1000 livebirths in the richest households (fifth quintile), and in between those outcomes for the middle quintiles. Between 1990 and 2016, the largest absolute decline in under-5 mortality rate occurred in the two poorest quintiles: 77·6 (90% UI 71·2-82·6) deaths per 1000 livebirths in the poorest quintile and 77·9 (72·0-82·2) deaths per 1000 livebirths in the second poorest quintile. The difference in under-5 mortality rate between the poorest and richest quintiles decreased significantly by 38·8 (90% UI 32·9-43·8) deaths per 1000 livebirths between 1990 and 2016. The poorest to richest under-5 mortality rate ratio, however, remained similar (2·03 [90% UI 1·94-2·11] in 1990, 1·99 [1·91-2·08] in 2000, and 2·06 [1·92-2·20] in 2016). During 1990-2016, around half of the total under-5 deaths occurred in the poorest two quintiles (48·5% in 1990 and 2000, 49·5% in 2016) and less than a third were in the richest two quintiles (30·4% in 1990, 30·5% in 2000, 29·9% in 2016). For all regions, differences in the under-5 mortality rate between the first and fifth quintiles decreased significantly, ranging from 20·6 (90% UI 15·9-25·1) deaths per 1000 livebirths in eastern Europe and central Asia to 59·5 (48·5-70·4) deaths per 1000 livebirths in south Asia. In 2016, the ratios of under-5 mortality rate in the first quintile to under-5 mortality rate in the fifth quintile were significantly above 2·00 in two regions, with 2·49 (90% UI 2·15-2·87) in east Asia and Pacific (excluding China) and 2·41 (2·05-2·80) in south Asia. Eastern and southern Africa had the smallest ratio in 2016 at 1·62 (90% UI 1·48-1·76). Our model suggested that the expected ratio of under-5 mortality rate in the first quintile to under-5 mortality rate in the fifth quintile increases as national-level under-5 mortality rate decreases.
Interpretation: For all LMICs (excluding China) combined, the absolute disparities in under-5 mortality rate between the poorest and richest households have narrowed significantly since 1990, whereas the relative differences have remained stable. To further narrow the rich-and-poor gap in under-5 mortality rate on the relative scale, targeted interventions that focus on the poorest populations are needed.
Funding: National University of Singapore, UN Children's Fund, United States Agency for International Development, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Copyright © 2018 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an Open Access article under the CC BY 4.0 license. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.