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Child Mortality Causes JPG | PPS

Child Morbidity and Mortality

Global Causes of Child Deaths, 2008: Black et al., 2010

Pie chart derived from data in Black RE, Cousens S, Johnson HL et al. in “Global, regional, and national causes of child mortality in 2008: a systemic analysis,” The Lancet, May 12, 2010. Download: JPG | PPS

Child mortality is common, and largely preventable

According to UNICEF, nearly 8 million children under age five died worldwide in 2010.1 Tragically, more than half of childhood deaths are preventable with existing tools and interventions. Existing vaccines alone can prevent an estimated 25% of under-five deaths. In fact, researchers predict that the utilization of existing tools and interventions around the world could save more than 6 million young lives every year.

The main causes of child death are as neonatal, pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, measles, HIV/AIDS and injuries.

The world has set a goal to reduce child deaths

In 2000, leaders from 189 countries signed the United Nation Millennium Declaration, signaling a worldwide commitment to eradicating extreme poverty by the year 2015. The Declaration includes 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with 21 corresponding targets and 60 indicators for tracking progress.

MDG #4 aims to decrease child mortality by two-thirds, from an incidence of 93 deaths per 1,000 children under age five in 1990 to 31 per 1,000 in 2015. While some countries are on track to meet MDG by 2015, many lag behind, and some have even shown increasing child mortality rates.

This multimedia feature shows the progress of the 60 “priority countries,” – who together represented 94% of all under-five child deaths in 2004 – in achieving MDG 4. In-depth, country-specific information on MDG 4 progress is also available through Countdown to 2015: Maternal, Newborn & Child Survival.

The good news is that solutions exist to improve child health and survival. However, a greater worldwide effort, commitment and investment will be needed to bring life-saving interventions to the most vulnerable children, prevent more child deaths, and help all countries reach MDG #4 by 2015.

Pneumonia is a major cause of child morbidity and mortality

Pneumonia is the number one killer of children under age five, taking the lives of approximately one million children every year. Most of these children are dying in poor countries, many of the same countries that are in danger of failing to meet the MDG child survival goal. Pneumonia prevention and treatment is therefore essential to increase child survival.


  1. UNICEF. The State of the World’s Children. 2012.
  2. The Bellagio Study Group on Child Survival. Knowledge into action for child survival. Lancet 2003; 362: 323–27.
  3. Neonatal causes of death include pre-term birth, pneumonia, sepsis, and birth asphyxia occurring during the first month of life.
  4. UNICEF, WHO. Pneumonia: The forgotten killer of children. 2006.