60 per cent of under-5 deaths linked to 10 nations in Asia, Africa

KUALA LUMPUR - Sixty per cent of the world's 5.9 million children who died before their fifth birthday last year were in 10 countries in Asia and Africa, said a study published on Friday, prompting calls for action to reduce the mortality.

The study published in The Lancet medical journal said the data highlights the inequality in children's death among the 194 countries studied, even though the number of under-five deaths has fallen by four million, compared to 2010.

Of the 5.9 million deaths last year, 3.6 million happened in 10 Asian and African countries - India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, China, Angola, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Tanzania.

The two leading causes were complications due to premature birth and pneumonia, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School Of Public Health, London School Of Hygiene And Tropical Medicine and World Health Organisation.

The researchers said child survival has improved substantially, although countries failed to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goal to cut the rate of under-five deaths by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015.

The rate fell by 53 per cent over the period.

The slow progress to reduce newborn deaths - in the first 28 days of life - hampered the MDG target.

Of the 5.9 million under-five deaths in 2015, 2.7 million were newborns.

Under the Sustainable Development Goals, which replaced the MDGs last year, all countries aim to reduce under-five mortality to no more than 25 deaths per 1,000 births by 2030.

The researchers recommended breastfeeding, vaccines for pneumonia, malaria and diarrhoea, as well as improving water and sanitation to help with children's survival.

Read also: Premature births fall to 10-year low in US