Unicef hails drops in child mortality in Niger

Unicef has welcomed a drop in child mortality in Niger throughout the last decade.

According to the latest figures from the organisation, there were 66 deaths among children aged less than a year old during 2011. This compares with 133 in 1992.

Isselmou Boukhary, Unicef's representative for Niger, said this is an "exceptional performance" and means the nation is making much better progress on tackling child mortality than Nigeria, Mali and Burkina Faso, IRIN reports.

The improvement puts Niger on course to meet its UN Millennium Development Goals, which require the country to reduce its child mortality rate by two-thirds by 2015.

This was attributed partly to a government effort to increase the availability of free healthcare to under-fives, along with a focus on tackling major causes of child deaths including diarrhoea and malaria.

However, Unicef warned Niger is falling short on its maternal mortality targets, partly because a skilled attendant is on hand at fewer than one in five births.