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Media statement

3 October 2012

Prof Debbie BradshawBurden of Disease Research Unit releases Rapid Mortality Surveillance Report

The MRC’s Burden of Disease Research Unit has released a new report that shows a considerable drop/fall in the rate at which people have been dying in South Africa in recent years. The Rapid Mortality Surveillance Report 2011 shows that the mortality rate of children under 5 years of age fell from 73 per 1,000 live births to 42 per 1,000 live births and the probability of a 15-year old dying before reaching age 60 fell from 51% to 40% over the past 6 years. As a result the average life expectancy in the country has improved from a low of 54 in 2005 to 60 in 2011, an increase of 6 years.

“This has been achieved through a reduction in the mortality of both children and young adults. We believe that the extensive roll-out of HIV treatment and the prevention of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV are the main reasons for the improvement but there may be other factors as well, particularly in the case of children” says Burden of Disease Unit Director Dr Debbie Bradshaw.

“This is excellent news for the country,” says Bradshaw, “but it is not all good news, and we are still concerned about South Africa meeting the maternal and child health-related Millennium Development Goals by 2015.” According to the report the maternal mortality ratio (Goal 5) had worsened to an estimated level of 333 per 100 000 live births in 2009. The report also shows that while the infant and under-5 mortality rates have improved, the neonatal (babies under-1 month of age) mortality rate had shown no sign of improvement by 2009. These trends indicate the importance of government’s strategies to improve the quality of health care.

An earlier report on trends in under-5 mortality, “Under-5 mortality statistics in South Africa: Shedding some light on the trends and causes 1997-2007”, released in April 2012 also by the Burden of Disease Research Unit, highlighted the data challenges of trying to track progress on this key MDG indicator in South Africa. The report reviewed different data sources to understand the mortality trends from 1990-2007 and concluded that there have been improvements in death registration but efforts are still needed to improve it further.

For more information:

Prof Debbie Bradshaw
Burden of Disease Research Unit
021-938 0427

Prof Rob Dorrington
UCT Centre for Acturial Research
021-650 2467

For access to the report please visit

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Last updated:
9 April, 2014
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