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Johannesburg - Child and maternal deaths in South Africa have both dropped by more than six percent between 2000 and 2013, according to research by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

It found that child deaths in South Africa increased by an average rate of 1.4 percent per year from 1990 to 2000, then fell by 6.1 percent between 2000 and 2013.

This meant there was an average 2.8 percent decline per year over the 1990 to 2013 period.

This is according to two studies on child and maternal deaths in 188 countries. The research was conducted by the IHME at the University of Washington as part of its global burden of disease work and was published on May 2 in “The Lancet”.

The study showed that child death rates dropped by 48 percent globally between 1990 and 2013. But 6.3 million children still died before their fifth birthday in 2013.

Maternal mortality in South Africa fell at a rate of 6.9 percent per year during 2003 to 2013. While important progress was being made, 171.4 mothers per 100 000 live births died from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications in South Africa in 2013.

“South Africa’s progress in reducing maternal mortality is impressive, but too many mothers are still dying,” said Tom Achoki, the IHME’s director of African Initiatives.

“We know what works to save mothers’ lives and must continue to do more.”

The study on child mortality showed that maternal education and income growth have had a significant impact in reducing child deaths.

The leading cause of maternal death globally was medical complications in childbirth and the period post-delivery. Approximately one-quarter of maternal deaths were found to occur during childbirth and the 24 hours following. Another quarter happen during pregnancy, and the remaining deaths up to one year after delivery.

Globally, HIV accounts for less than one percent of maternal deaths, but in southern sub-Saharan Africa the virus causes 6.2 percent of deaths during pregnancy and childbirth.

For children, the data shows that the earliest days of life are the most dangerous.

In 2013, nearly 42 percent of global child deaths occurred in infants less than one month old. The 10 countries with the lowest child survival rates were all in sub-Saharan Africa.