Under 5 Mortality by Country

Three quick ways to find national statistics for your next proposal or presentation

It used to be that finding national statistics was a time consuming business. You had to hunt through government reports, many of which were not available online, or were of dubious origin. You could spend days just trying to find a few numbers for the opening sentence of your proposal or presentation.

These days things are much easier. There are plenty of online databases with national statistics from a wide range of countries. Many of these databases are available for free through international organisations and the UN. Here are three of my favourite sources.

UN Data

The United Nations Statistics Division has created a single website that provides access to all UN databases in one place. You can find links to national statistics on any of the following topics:

  • Crime
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Environment
  • Finance
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Gender
  • Health
  • Human Development
  • Indicators (e.g. Millennium Development Goals)
  • Industry
  • Information & Communication Technology
  • Labour
  • National Accounts
  • Official Development Assistance
  • Population
  • Refugees
  • Tourism
  • Trade

Here is an example of the results when I looked up national homicide rates in the crime database. You can copy the statistics direct from the website or download the whole table for further analysis.

UN data example

UN Data also provides links to government data sources for many countries, such as the State Statistical Committee for Azerbaijan or the National Statistical Office of Malawi. This can help you to find the original source of many statistics.

UN Data »

UN data

World Bank Data

The World Bank has also created a central repository for national statistics. You can search by countrytopic, or indicator. The database includes statistics on:

  • Agriculture & Rural Development
  • Aid Effectiveness
  • Climate Change
  • Economy & Growth
  • Education
  • Energy & Mining
  • Environment
  • External Debt
  • Financial Sector
  • Gender
  • Health
  • Infrastructure
  • Poverty
  • Private Sector
  • Public Sector
  • Science & Technology
  • Social Development
  • Social Protection & Labor
  • Trade
  • Urban Development

The interface is a lot more impressive than UN Data. Here is an example of the result when I searched for carbon dioxide emissions per capita:

World Bank example

The results can be presented as a table, or with the click of a button you can see them as a graph…

World Bank graph

…or a map (pretty impressive)

World Bank map

World Bank Data »


For the all singing, all dancing version of national statistics you can’t go past Hans Rosling’s Gapminder software (you should also watch the best stats you’ve ever seen in his 2006 TED talk).

Gapminder allows you to create animations of national statistics that show trends over time. The software comes pre-loaded with statistics on:

  • Life expectancy
  • Economy
  • Society
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Environment
  • Health
  • Infrastructure
  • Population
  • Work

The image below is from an animation showing the relationship between fertility and income over time for South Korea and Bangladesh.


Gapminder »

Photo by WHO

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About Piroska Bisits Bullen

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Piroska has worked on a range of international development programs involving local NGOs, international NGOs, UN agencies and government. She holds a Ph.D. in public health, has published articles in several journals, and was a speaker at TEDx Phnom Penh. Piroska is passionate about using scientific evidence and creativity to design programs that work.
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