Child mortality: Top causes, best solutions

While the number of preventable child deaths has dropped dramatically, nearly 19,000 children still die from preventable causes each day. A few simple solutions can save even more lives.

By Chris Huber, World Vision U.S.
Published November 13, 2012 at 12:00am PST

The number of children younger than 5 who die each year from preventable causes has decreased dramatically — but not fast enough, say the World Health Organization and nongovernmental organizations like World Vision.

They insist governments can and should do more to meet the fourth Millennium Development Goal : reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-5 mortality rate — a key measure of a nation’s care for its most vulnerable citizens, young children, and infants.

Top preventable child killers

Six most preventable causes of death for children younger than 5 are:

1. Pneumonia (kills 1.2 million children annually)
2. Preterm complications (1 million)
3. Newborn infections (700,000)
4. Diarrhea (700,000)
5. Birth complications (600,000)
6. Malaria (500,000)

Childhood malnutrition is the underlying cause of 35 percent of all deaths among children younger than 5, so proper nutrition is foundational to helping prevent many deaths.

Solutions that save lives

According to the World Health Organization, six solutions to the most preventable causes of under-5 deaths include:

1. Immediate and exclusive breastfeeding
2. Skilled attendants for antenatal, birth, and postnatal care
3. Access to nutrition and micronutrients
4. Family knowledge of danger signs in a child’s health
5. Water, sanitation, and hygiene
6. Immunizations

These solutions are among the various interventions that World Vision employs in its work to promote mother and child health. World Vision works with communities to train and equip midwives and local health workers; with governments to provide supplies and resources to clinics and hospitals; and with parents to teach best practices in the care and nurture of their young children.

Child Health Now is World Vision’s global campaign aimed at ensuring that children grow up healthy in their communities, with access to basic health services, adequate nutrition, and disease prevention. Between November 13 and 20, World Vision is calling for a Global Week of Action to speak up for child health and highlight the causes of and solutions to preventable child deaths.

How you can help

Thank God for the reduced number of preventable child deaths. Please pray for continued progress in protecting children from disease and malnutrition.

Raise your hand for child health. Add your photo to our virtual photo wall to show your support for child health.

Make a donation to the Survive to Five Challenge. Because of government grants, any gift you give will triple in impact to help deliver life-saving interventions to children at greatest risk — like insecticide-treated bed nets, therapeutic food, vaccinations, clean water, and more.