Given how conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, and Gaza have dominated headlines this year, it's easy to forget that the world actually isn't going to hell in a handbasket. On a wide variety of dimensions, living conditions for most people on Earth are getting better. Access to education and health care is growing. Poverty is falling, even in sub-Saharan Africa. Even war itself is on the decline.
The latest example comes from a recent UNICEF report tracking the decline in mortality among children under 5. It finds that the worldwide childhood mortality rate was cut nearly in half between 1990 and 2013. That includes an over two thirds drop in East Asia, Latin America/Caribbean, and Northern Africa, and a 48 percent drop in sub-Saharan Africa. Not only that, but child mortality dropped in 191 out of 195 countries included in the report; the four exceptions were three countries in southern Africa — Lesotho, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe — and the tiny Pacific island nation of Niue.
This map, by Vox's Anand Katakam, shows the cumulative 1990-2013 drop by country. The darker the coloring, the bigger the drop. You can hover over each country to see the precise figure, as well as their 1990, 2000, and 2013 childhood mortality rates:
Childhood mortality is still far too common. As UNICEF notes, children born in Angola, which has the highest rate, are 84 times more likely to die before the age of five than those born in Luxembourg, which has the lowest rate. Almost 17,000 children under five die daily. The drop isn't big enough for the world to meet the Millennium Development Goal for childhood mortality, which requires a two-thirds reduction between 1990 and 2013. There's plenty of work left to be done, and progress is no excuse for complacency. But the trend lines are encouraging.
Want to hear more encouraging trends about global development? Check out our interview with Charles Kenny: