Child survival: magnitude of the problem in Latin America
La sobrevivencia en la infancia: las dimensiones del problema en América Latina

H Behm-Rosas
Salud Pública de México  
This document summarizes the most relevant epidemiologic characteristics of infant and child mortality in Latin America. The gap in infant mortality rates between Latin America and the developed countries is wide and appears to be increasing. In the developed countries, 980 of each 1000 infants survive to the age of 5, but only 900 did so in Latin America in 1975-80. Infant mortality declined in Latin America between 1950-55 and 1980-85 from 128 to 63/1000 live births, with a slight increase in
more » ... slight increase in the rate of decline over the past decade. The great differences in social and economic development within Latin America are reflected in mortality rates before the age of 5 that also vary widely, from 34/1000 in Cuba to 221/1000 in Bolivia in 1975-80. Latin American countries with moderate risk of early childhood mortality are led by Cuba and Costa Rica, with rates of 34-35/1000. The 2 countries are very different politically but both have implemented vigorous social policies that benefitted their entire populations. Both had sustained mortality declines between 1955-80. Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Panama had mortality rates of 46-56/1000. Within the region, 16.4% of births and 8% of deaths in children under 5 are estimated to occur in these 7 countries. The countries of very high mortality include the least developed Caribbean, Central American, and Andean countries: Haiti, guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Peru. 3 of these countries contain large indigenous populations that have largely remained outside the development process. Their average rate of infant mortality is 162/1000. 14.7% of births and 27.0% of deaths in children under 5 in Latin America occur in these 6 countries. The intermediate group contains the 2 most populated countries of the region, Brazil and Mexico. The risk of death under age 5 ranges from 74 to 114/1000 and averages 99/1000. The 7 countries account for 68.9% of births and 68% of deaths in children under 5. The rate of decline in infant mortality in Latin America is on the whole moderate, with no sign of acceleration. Progress is slowest in the countries with the highest rates. Available data clearly demonstrate excess mortality in rural areas, especially when compared to capital cities, but the degree of disparity varies among countries. In countries with high mortality and a large rural population, sustained decline in national mortality rates will require rural populations to be incorporated in the decline. In 1985, about 40% of Latin American children under 5 were believed to be in rural areas, but the proportion rural was 57% in the countries with highest mortality. Statistical information on causes of death in children under 5 is most deficient in exactly the areas where it is most needed. Most deaths are clearly due to infectious diseases and conditions preventable by vaccination. Social inequalities in survival of young children have been extensively described as a function of paternal occupational status, maternal education, and geographic factors. More effective policies are needed to ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth that will make possible a major improvement in child survival.
pmid:3187730 fatcat:2n7g4ghfgnf2ha2q7eeh4psfzi