|Improved healthcare and immunisation has meant that 12,000 children's lives are being saved annually [EPA]
The number of children under the age five who die annually has plummeted from 12 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have said in a new report.
The two United Nations agencies estimate in the report that the drop means about 12,000 more children's lives are being saved each day.
They say there are many reasons for the improved under-five mortality rate, including better access to health care and preventive measures such as immunisation, clean water and better nutrition.
Even so, improvements in child mortality rates will not be enough to meet the UN goal set in 2000 of reducing
child mortality by two-thirds by 2015, and the groups say more money is needed.
Anthony Lake, the UNICEF executive director, says "focusing greater investment on the most disadvantaged communities will help us save more children's lives, more quickly and more cost effectively.
"The news that the rate of child mortality in sub-Saharan Africa is declining twice as fast as it was a decade ago shows that we can make progress even in the poorest places," said Lake. "But we cannot for a moment forget the chilling fact of around 21,000 children are dying everyday from preventable causes."
Between 1990 and 2010, the annual number of deaths in children under five years of age fell to 57 per 1,000 births in 2010, from 88 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990.
Sierra Leone ranked among the top five countries seeing improvements in child mortality in the past decade, along with Niger, Malawi, Liberia and Timor-Leste.
About half of all under-five deaths in the world took place in just five countries in 2010; India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and China.
Babies are particularly vulnerable. According to the report, more than 40 per cent of deaths in children under the age of five occur within the first month of life and more than 70 per cent occur in the first year of life.
Deaths among children under the age of five increasingly are concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, with 82 per cent of child deaths occurring in these regions in 2010, compared with 69 percent in 1990.
In sub-Saharan Africa, one in eight children die before reaching age of five. That compares with one in 143 children dying before age five in developed countries.