Fact CheckHealth

Is Nigeria’s infant mortality rate higher than India, as Obi claimed?

Claim: Peter Obi, the Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate, said Nigeria has a higher infant mortality rate than India.

Verdict: True! Available records show that Nigeria’s infant mortality rate is higher than India’s. 

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Mr Obi recently said Nigeria surpasses India in infant mortality rate. He spoke while reacting to statements by the opposition that the LP, under which Mr Obi is contesting, has no structure which would facilitate his victory at the forthcoming elections. 

In his response, the presidential candidate said he is determined to dismantle the existing structure that has destroyed and brought the country to a position where it has a higher infant mortality rate than India. 

“It is the structure that produced 133 million people living in poverty, 20 million out-of-school children, and made Nigeria surpass India in infant mortality,” he said. 

What is infant mortality?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines infant mortality as the death of an infant before their first birthday, while the infant mortality rate is the number of infant deaths for every 1,000 live births. 

According to the World Health Organization, the infant mortality rate goes a long way to reflect the social, economic and environmental conditions in which children (and others in society) live, including their health care.

Infant mortality is a major health challenge that has received interventions from concerned health bodies, including the WHO and UNICEF

While researchers have identified accurate measurement and estimation issues in aggregating data on infant mortality, the Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality of Estimation (UN IGME) produces trends of infant mortality rates with a standardised methodology by a group of countries depending on the type and quality of the source of data available.

It draws members from the WHO, World Bank, UN Population Division and Unicef. 

In the recent data released by the UN IGME, Nigeria’s infant mortality rate was 71 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2021. For India, a South-Asian country, the infant mortality rate recorded in 2021 was 25 deaths per 1,000 live births.

The total estimates by Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) showed that sub-Saharan Africa suffered the highest rates of mortality in the world at 50 (46-57) deaths per 1,000 live births, about 12 times higher than the infant mortality rate in Southern Asia, which recorded 30 (28-33) deaths per 1000 live births in 2021.

Using data from the World Bank, Nigeria’s population in the year under review (2021) was 213 million, while India had about 1.41 billion people.

Despite the difference in the two countries’ populations, Nigeria surpassed India in infant mortality rate.

Identifying causes of infant mortality

In November 2022, Osagie Ehanire, Nigeria’s minister of health, blamed the lack of access to healthcare for the country’s high maternal, infant and under-five mortality.

Generally, the WHO notes that infectious diseases, including pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria, pre-term birth complications, birth asphyxia, trauma and congenital anomalies, remain the leading causes of death for children under five.  


Mr Obi’s claim that Nigeria’s mortality rate is higher than India’s is true. 

The claim for this fact-check was sourced using the Full Fact AI tool. Learn more about the tool here.

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