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Machine learning approach for predicting under-five mortality determinants in Ethiopia: evidence from the 2016 Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey
Authors: Fikrewold H. Bitew, Samuel H. Nyarko, Lloyd Potter, and Corey S. Sparks
Source: Genus, Volume 76, Article number: 37; DOI:
Topic(s): Childhood mortality
Children under five
Data models
Country: Africa
Published: NOV 2020
Abstract: There is a dearth of literature on the use of machine learning models to predict important under-five mortality risks in Ethiopia. In this study, we showed spatial variations of under-five mortality and used machine learning models to predict its important sociodemographic determinants in Ethiopia. The study data were drawn from the 2016 Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey. We used three machine learning models such as random forests, logistic regression, and K-nearest neighbors as well as one traditional logistic regression model to predict under-five mortality determinants. For each machine learning model, measures of model accuracy and receiver operating characteristic curves were used to evaluate the predictive power of each model. The descriptive results show that there are considerable regional variations in under-five mortality rates in Ethiopia. The under-five mortality prediction ability was found to be between 46.3 and 67.2% for the models considered, with the random forest model (67.2%) showing the best performance. The best predictive model shows that household size, time to the source of water, breastfeeding status, number of births in the preceding 5 years, sex of a child, birth intervals, antenatal care, birth order, type of water source, and mother’s body mass index play an important role in under-five mortality levels in Ethiopia. The random forest machine learning model produces a better predictive power for estimating under-five mortality risk factors and may help to improve policy decision-making in this regard. Childhood survival chances can be improved considerably by using these important factors to inform relevant policies.