In 2000, all 189 member states of the United Nations agreed to work toward a unified set of objectives that are known as the Millennium Development Goals. These ambitious yet vital projects aim to tackle some of the world's most urgent problems by 2015, including eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, improving maternal and child health worldwide and promoting environmental sustainability. The fourth goal is to reduce child and infant mortality rates around the world. Although much progress has been made in the past 13 years, there is still much to do.
According to a recent report published by UNICEF, substantial gains have been achieved in reducing child and infant mortality rates worldwide. In 1990, the number of children under the age of 5 who died from preventable causes annually stood at around 12.6 million. By 2012, this figure was almost halved to 6.6 million. This reduction is equivalent to more than 17,000 children's lives saved every day.
Similarly, overall child mortality rates have fallen significantly during the past 23 years. In 1990, the global child mortality rate was approximately 90 deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2012, this figure was 48 deaths per 1,000 live births. Virtually all regions, with the exception of sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania (Australia and nearby islands), have reported substantial reductions in child and infant mortality rates.
However, while this progress is notable, there is still a long way to go before MDG 4 can be met. Sub-Saharan Africa still has the highest child and infant mortality rate in the world, with around 98 deaths per 1,000 live births -- more than 15 times the rate of developed nations. Much of this can be attributed to child hunger and malnutrition due to extreme poverty. Around half of all deaths of children under the age of 5 occur in just five countries in the world -- India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and China. Overall, child mortality rates are becoming increasingly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia.
Many of the leading causes of child mortality can be prevented. Pneumonia, pre-term birth complications, diarrhea and malaria are the predominant causes of death among young children, and families living in poverty are particularly susceptible to these conditions due to a lack of access to health care, clean water and nutritious food.
ChildFund works in some of the world's poorest countries, including several in sub-Saharan Africa, to decrease child and infant mortality rates by preventable causes and give children the start in life they deserve. One of our primary objectives in these countries is expanding access to health care, particularly for expectant mothers and newborn children.
Senegal is one country where child mortality rates have fallen and maternal health has improved, partly due to the work of ChildFund and our local partners. With a $40 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development, we have been able to lead implementation of a country-wide health care program that will provide thousands of families with the potentially lifesaving medicine and treatment they need. By 2016, the program is expected to have benefited more than 12 million people -- almost Senegal's entire population.
We can make a difference in the lives of families living in poverty and their children by working together. As the 2015 deadline for the millennium goals approaches, we must maintain the momentum and continue working toward a brighter future when children can begin their lives free from the threats posed by preventable diseases, lack of education and poverty. Our monthly giving programs are an excellent way for you to support children in need around the world, and becoming a child sponsor is one of the most effective means of providing a child with the essentials he or she needs to survive and thrive over the long term.