Background: In September 2013, the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME) published an update of the estimates of the under-five mortality rate (U5MR) and under-five deaths for all countries. Compared to the UN IGME estimates published in 2012, updated data inputs and a new method for estimating the U5MR were used. Methods: We summarize the new U5MR estimation method, which is a Bayesian B-spline Bias-reduction model, and highlight differences with the previously used method. Differences in UN IGME U5MR estimates as published in 2012 and those published in 2013 are presented and decomposed into differences due to the updated database and differences due to the new estimation method to explain and motivate changes in estimates. Findings: Compared to the previously used method, the new UN IGME estimation method is based on a different trend fitting method that can track (recent) changes in U5MR more closely. The new method provides U5MR estimates that account for data quality issues. Resulting differences in U5MR point estimates between the UN IGME 2012 and 2013 publications are small for the majority of countries but greater than 10 deaths per 1,000 live births for 33 countries in 2011 and 19 countries in 1990. These differences can be explained by the updated database used, the curve fitting method as well as accounting for data quality issues. Changes in the number of deaths were less than 10% on the global level and for the majority of MDG regions. Conclusions: The 2013 UN IGME estimates provide the most recent assessment of levels and trends in U5MR based on all available data and an improved estimation method that allows for closer-to-real-time monitoring of changes in the U5MR and takes account of data quality issues.
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