The mortality rate for children under the age of 5 worldwide has been cut by nearly a quarter since 1990, according to UNICEF, thanks to improved efforts to combat pneumonia, premature births and birth defects, diarrhea, malaria, measles and HIV/AIDS.

The worldwide childhood mortality rate has dropped 23 percent since 1990, with 9.7 million children dying worldwide last year.
However, UNICEF notes that nearly half of these children—4.8 million—were in sub-Saharan Africa.

UNICEF attributes this staggering rate of child death in Africa to war and the continued prominence of HIV/AIDS. However, noted improvements have been made in AIDS-affected China and India.

“There’s overall progress in reducing child mortality, but clearly 9.7 million children dying every year is completely and totally unacceptable,” UNICEF executive director Ann Veneman, a former U.S. agriculture chief, said.