In Nigeria, one in every five children dies before the age of 5. The country’s under-five mortality ratio is at 201 per 1000 live birth, making it one of the most dangerous places to raise a child. According to a recent report by UNICEF, Nigeria surpassed India in the first position as the country with the highest contribution to deaths of children under the age of five.

The new ranking is not only shocking but worrisome because it has happened two years earlier than estimated by the World Bank in 2018. From the World Bank report, Nigeria was not due to overtake India as the world’s capital for deaths of children under-five until 2021. In the same report, as of 2017, Nigeria recorded an estimated 714,000 under-5 deaths while India recorded an estimated 989,000. These were the figures despite India’s population being over 1 billion and Nigeria, about 200 million.

Meanwhile, in 2019 according to the UNICEF report, Nigeria recorded an estimated average of 858,000 under-five deaths against India’s 824,000 deaths out of 5.2 million under-five deaths globally. The number of under-5 deaths from both countries accounts for almost a third of the global under-5 deaths.

Nigeria, India under 5 deaths

What is killing Nigeria’s children?

The causes of under-5 deaths in Nigeria are a combination of different factors ranging from lack of adequate healthcare funding and malnutrition to deaths from infectious diseases.

Lack of Adequate Healthcare funding

Funding remains one of the biggest challenges facing the healthcare sector in Nigeria. It is no longer news that little or no priority is given to healthcare in the country; a fact which is evident through the allocated expenditure on the sector. While there’s a need for increased funding in healthcare, the lack of it and compounding negative results are visible to all.

With increased funding in healthcare, there will be more provision for improved healthcare services. This will also reduce the number of under-5 deaths as they will be able to access quality healthcare service.

Infectious Diseases

Another contributor to under-5 deaths is that a significant number of babies die from infectious diseases that could be prevented. Some of the diseases listed in the report include pneumonia, malaria, HIV/AIDS, measles, and tuberculosis. Pneumonia is responsible for most under-5 deaths in developing countries and Nigeria accounts for the highest number of pneumonia deaths globally with 162,000 children under the age of five in 2018.


Malnutrition is another cause of under-5 deaths in Nigeria. It is crucial to note that malnutrition, like some of the other factors mentioned, takes its roots from the lack of adequate funding. Recently, the government removed the N800 million budgetary allocated for Ready-to-Use-Therapeutic Food (RUTF) from the 2020 budget.

Prior to the removal, Nigeria was also not spending enough to address its nutrition crisis. A World Bank report estimates Nigeria would have to spend N301 billion ($837 million) annually to combat malnutrition effectively.

How we are making a difference

Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment Company remains devoted to the problems we are determined to solve as regards healthcare and healthcare systems in Nigeria. Some of the problems are infant mortality rate, life expectancy at birth, maternal mortality ratio, under-five mortality rate, births attended by skilled health personnel, the density of physicians and nurses, etc.

Through our various projects and investment companies, we are continually working to improve the state of healthcare in Nigeria and Africa. See how some of our portfolio companies are changing the narrative:

CHISCO EXPRESS: Chisco Express through its pool of vehicles and cargo planes are able to deliver drugs to hundreds of pharmacies across the country.

SYGEN: Sygen pharmaceuticals manufacture low-cost generic antibiotics to make drugs more accessible.

LIFESTORES: Lifestores Pharmacy is another one of our portfolio company solving the issue of under-5 through the provision of antibiotics at their branches.

HELIUM HEALTH: Helium Health through its telemedicine platform is able to offer medical assistance to people with limited access to quality care.

MDAAS GLOBAL: MDaaS operates low-cost diagnostic centres to help diagnose and monitor patients with different health infections and diseases.

You can also read more about how our portfolio companies are tackling the top causes of death in Nigeria.

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