Childhood mortality decreased globally in the first decade and half of this century but not by the two-thirds target set as the UN’s Millenial Development Goal, according to research published this week in The Lancet

Model analysis showed that among 5.9 million deaths in children younger than 5 years in 2015, 2.7 million deaths occurred in neonates. Mortality rates for pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria and measles were reduced by 30% during the study period; however, the leading causes of mortality in children younger than 5 years were premature birth complications (1.055 million; 95% uncertainty range [UR], 0.935-1.179), pneumonia (0.921 million; 95% UR, 0.812-1.117) and death during birth (0.691 million; 95% UR, 0.598-0.778).

Some of the countries with the highest rates of child mortality were located in sub-Saharan Africa. The researchers wrote that effective, low cost public health policies, such as promoting breastfeeding, vaccinating for pneumonia and malaria; and taking steps to reduced diarrhea, such as by improving water safety and  sanitation would address many of the infectious causes of mortality.