Infographics

Infographic: Child mortality in South Africa from 1974 to 2016

The death rate of children is the starkest indicator of the health of a country’s society and economy. In 1974 South Africa’s mortality rate – deaths per 1,000 live births – was 88.1 for infants under a year and 125.5 for under-fives. By 2016 it had dropped to 34.2 for infants and 43.3 for under-fives.

Line graph showing the child mortality rate in South Africa from 1960 to 2016. The child mortality rate is defined as the number of deaths per 1,000 live births. Both the infant (0 to 12 months) and under-5 mortality rate is shown.
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Read more: South Africa’s population

In the 1970s most South Africans were kept in poverty and denied quality education, healthcare and access to meaningful jobs. Social welfare was virtually nonexistent. The economy was in recession. The policy of apartheid had brutal consequences for children.

As the system was slowly reformed through the 1980s, and then abandoned in the 1990s, child mortality dropped. It reached a rate of 42.9 for infants and 55.1 for under-fives in 1992. Then it rose again as South Africa’s Aids epidemic took hold. By 2004 infant mortality was 49.3, and under-five mortality 74.4 – the same rate it had been in 1987.

The world’s largest antiretroviral HIV treatment programme, launched in 2005, quickly had an impact. Child mortality began to fall again.

Today South Africa’s healthcare system is by no means perfect, but it is available to all. The social welfare net is wide and includes grants for children and for foster care. The economy has grown at an uneven but still significant rate since the end of apartheid.

In 2016 child mortality in South Africa was 34.2 for infants and 43.3 for under-fives, the lowest rate recorded.

Child mortality in 1974

Infant mortality rate: 88.1 deaths per 1,000 live births
Under-5 mortality rate: 125.5 deaths per 1,000 live births

Child mortality in 1980

Infant mortality rate: 65.9 deaths per 1,000 live births
Under-5 mortality rate: 90.4 deaths per 1,000 live births

Child mortality in 1985

Infant mortality rate: 53.1 deaths per 1,000 live births
Under-5 mortality rate: 70.4 deaths per 1,000 live births

Child mortality in 1990

Infant mortality rate: 44.6 deaths per 1,000 live births
Under-5 mortality rate: 57.4 deaths per 1,000 live births

Child mortality in 1995

Infant mortality rate: 43.6 deaths per 1,000 live births
Under-5 mortality rate: 57.2 deaths per 1,000 live births

Child mortality in 2000

Infant mortality rate: 46.3 deaths per 1,000 live births
Under-5 mortality rate: 66.7 deaths per 1,000 live births

Child mortality in 2005

Infant mortality rate: 48.9 deaths per 1,000 live births
Under-5 mortality rate: 74.3 deaths per 1,000 live births

Child mortality in 2010

Infant mortality rate: 37.3 deaths per 1,000 live births
Under-5 mortality rate: 53.7 deaths per 1,000 live births

Child mortality in 2016

Infant mortality rate: 34.2 deaths per 1,000 live births
Under-5 mortality rate: 43.3 deaths per 1,000 live births

Data source: ChildMortality.org

Researched, written and designed by Mary Alexander.
Updated 28 February 2018.