The Incredibly Important Statistic That Keeps Getting Better

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Twenty years ago, children born in Ethiopia were at terrible risk of dying. Things were so bad that many Ethiopian parents would not name their baby at birth, opting to wait and see if he or she lived—so only the living would be given a name.

But since 1990, Ethiopia has reduced its child mortality rate by 67%. UNICEF released a report on Friday showing worldwide progress in keeping children alive, and the news is tremendous. While there is still much work to be done, today, Ethiopian babies are named at birth. Watch this video explaining the change, and have a tissue ready:

Worldwide, the progress made since 1990 is staggering. 6 million fewer kids will die this year than in 1990, and each year the picture improves more. Melinda Gates wrote about "The Most Important Statistic in the World" (emphasis added):

Every single year—for at least the last 50 years—the number [of child deaths] has gone down. Every. Single. Year.

I challenge you to name something else that gets better on that kind of schedule. The stock market goes up and down. Sprinters keep getting faster, but they don’t set new records every year. The 100 meter record set in 1968 didn’t get broken until 1983.

Meanwhile, the child mortality record set in 1968 got broken in 1969. And 1970. And 1971. And so on.

Keep in mind that we're talking about the most important statistic in the world—who is alive.

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September 18, 2013 - 9:00am
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At the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we believe that every person deserves the chance to live a healthy, productive life. We believe that tremendous progress is happening, but there are still great inequities we’re impatient to see addressed. It’s why we named our blog, Impatient Optimists. Our work is challenging, but we know we can get there. We cannot succeed alone, however. We need your help. If you’re into big thinking and big ideas to solve the world's biggest challenges (and we assume you are if you're reading Mental Floss), visit Impatient Optimists and become a part of the Gates Foundation community.