Friday, October 08, 2010

Child Mortality: Statistics More Positive Than It Seems

With all the discussion about the Millennium Development Goals and The Global Fund Replenishment and the lack of progress, Hans Rosling breaks down the positive statistics and exposes a couple of flaws in our approach to assessing progress.

At a recent presentation, Rosling, a doctor and researcher, discussed child mortality. In this presentation he showed that progress has been made in decreasing child mortality. The MDG is a 4% reduction in child mortality per year. Many countries are meeting this goal!

However, many people have said that there is little to no progress in Africa, and the average statistics seem to confirm this. Rosling argues that this is completely false. First, he argues that it is necessary for people to stop considering Africa as one place. It is full of different countries with different child mortality reduction rates and thinking about it as just one place skews the statistics and hides the progress that has been made. Second, the way we compare the statistics to determine the percent reduction per year is also flawed. Instead of looking at a 19 year period, simply look at the difference between the 1990s and the 2000s. The average percent reduction in child mortality almost doubles in the 2000s! This still is not good enough though. As mentioned above, Africa is not one country. If one looks at the statistics from different countries within Africa, one can see that certain countries are decreasing child mortality rates incredibly quickly. These success stories are just hidden by flawed statistics and averages.

The point is that statistics don’t always show the real impact that is being made through the Millennium Development Goals and other development efforts. Sometimes we need to readjust the way we think about development and developing countries in order to see the big (more positive!) picture.

-Kelli Hanson