The first five years of life are the most crucial to the physical and intellectual development of children and can determine their potential to learn and thrive for a life time. That is why it is specifically stated as one of the goals of the MDGs to reduce infant mortality by two thirds by 2015. Although there has been a substantial reduction in infant and child mortality rates in most developing countries in the recent past, it still remains a major public health issue in Sub-Saharan Africa, with special reference to Nigeria; the giant of Africa. The main purpose of this study is to ascertain the influencing factors on infant and child mortality in Nigeria. Survey data from the National Health Demographic Survey have been used to examine the patterns of infant and child of mortality. The simple regression estimation technique was employed to investigate the effects of some selected socio-economic variables on infant and child mortality. The selected variables include: the educational attainment of mothers, place of delivery, women’s status respecting decision making in the house which are; final Say on Mother's Health Care, final Say on Making Large Household Purchases, final Say on Making Household Purchases for Daily Needs, final Say on Visits to Family or Relatives, final Say on Deciding What to do With
Money Husbands Earns. The study reveals that their exist positive linear association between infant and child mortality and each of the variables serving as indicators for women’s status. This study was able to find out that place of delivery plays a crucial role, as better places of deliveries significantly reduce infant and child mortality in Nigeria. Also that higher level of educational attainment has negative impact on infant and child mortality.
Key words: Infant and child mortality, Mother’s status, National Health Demographic Survey, socio-economic. JEL classification: I11
Common as death may be, gathered statistics of mortality rate, when on the high side apparently becomes disturbing and more catastrophic, especially when the death figures are on the increase among young children, as this stresses and indicates a future absent the human race – Our Extinction. For this reason, health experts and policy makers have allocated special interest to the developments and checkmating of rising child mortality rates. Not only has this interest stretched into the international scene, it has attracted systematic approaches to reducing child mortality by 2/3 among children under the age of five from 1990 and 2015 as tagged in the UnitedNation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for public health workers, institutions and international development agencies. (Fox 2012).
Despite this goal of reducing infant and child mortality rate as stated in the MDGs, Child mortality rates still remain unacceptably high especially in sub-Saharan African countries, where close to 50 percent of childhood deaths takes place, even when the region accounts for only one fifth of the world’s child population
(Mesike and Mojekwu 2012). For instance, in sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in every 8 children dies before age five- nearly 20 times the average of 1 in 167 in developed parts of the world (Mojekwu and Ajilola, 2011). Similarly, UNICEF (2010) in the state of the world’s children report noted that 8.1 million children across the world who died in 2009 before their fifth birthday lived in developing countries and died from a disease or a combination of diseases that could easily have been prevented or treated. It also noted that, half of these deaths occurred in just five countries namely, India, Nigeria, the democratic republic of Congo, Pakistan and China; with India and Nigeria both accounting for one third of the total number of under five deaths worldwide. The report describes the phenomenon as disturbing and grossly insufficient to achieve the MDG goal by 2015 as only 9 out of the 64 countries with high child mortality rate are on track to meet the MDG goal.
Several factors have been acclaimed to be responsible for this ugly trend of high child and infant mortality. Childhood illnesses such as vaccines preventable diseases (VPD), malaria, acute respiratory infections (ARI), and diarrheal contribute substantially to morbidity and mortality among children less than five years old. Data from National Health Management Information Systems (NHMIS) shows that malaria is by far the most important cause of morbidity (38%) and mortality (28%) in infants and children, while 75% of malaria deaths occur in children under five. Malaria also accounts for about 11% of maternal deaths, especially for the first-time mothers. Estimates show that 50% of the population has at least one episode of malaria each year, whereas children less than age five suffer from two to four attacks a year. Diarrheal illness is reported to be the second most common cause of infant deaths and the main cause of under-five mortality. Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI) which include a wide range of upper and lower respiratory tract infections (pneumonia), commonly manifesting with cough, fever and rapid breathing were the main cause of under-five morbidity and infant mortality. UNICEF (2009) indicated that 25% of the population carries the sickle cell trait, and about 100,000 children born annually is reported to have a serious sickle cell disorder.
Aside the health related factors influencing child survival as mentioned above, there are non -health related or socio-economic factors that can affect a child’s survival. Examples are;
Female Literacy, the status of the mother regarding her level of participation in household’s decision making, access to safe and adequate sanitation, poverty, cultural and gender bias etc.