Infant mortality

Infant mortality

How many babies die in South Africa?

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Infant mortality is the number of babies out of a thousand live births who die before their first birthday. It is an important way to measure infant health, health care services and living conditions.

Health care authorities can use this rate to see where services are needed and to monitor the impact of service improvements.

Infant mortality rate
The infant mortality rate in South Africa is 27 per 1000. This is much higher than in most high income countries where the infant mortality rate is less than 5 per 1000.

The rate varies between provinces and districts. Mortality is highest in underserviced rural areas.

Common causes of infant deaths
A high rate of low birth weight babies has a big impact on the infant mortality rate.

In South Africa, the most common causes of infant deaths are:

  • neonatal (preterm birth, fetal hypoxia during labour, bacterial infections and congenital disorders)
  • diarrhoea
  • pneumonia
  • HIV and TB

Malnourishment can lead to death

Preventing and managing these conditions well will reduce the infant mortality rate.

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