From the Field

Child mortality: Top causes, best solutions

Health worker screens a child for malnutrition in South Darfur, Sudan.

Child mortality is a big deal, and a lot of people are fighting to reduce it in the developing world. In fact, the number of children younger than 5 who die each year from preventable causes has decreased dramatically — from 12.7 million in 1990 to 5.9 million in 2015. But that’s not fast enough, per the World Health Organization and other development agencies.

They insist governments can and should do more to further reduce 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

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

  1. Premature birth (18% of deaths)
  2. Pneumonia (16% of deaths)
  3. Birth defects (13% of deaths)
  4. Newborn infections, malaria, sepsis, measles (13% of deaths)
  5. Birth complications (11% of deaths)
  6. Diarrhea (9% of deaths)

Childhood malnutrition is an underlying cause of 45% of all deaths among children younger than 5, according to the WHO. So proper nutrition is foundational to helping prevent many deaths.

Solutions that save lives, reduce child mortality

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. Improved access to water, sanitation, and hygiene
  6. Immunizations

These solutions are among the various interventions World Vision employs in its work to promote maternal and child health. World Vision works with communities to train and equip midwives and local health workers; with governments and corporate partners 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.

World Vision aims to ensure children grow up healthy in their communities, with access to basic health services, adequate nutrition, and disease prevention.

How to help end child mortality

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