Causes of child mortality for the year 2010
Globally, the four major killers of children under age five were pneumonia (18%), prematurity (16%: 14% during the neonatal period and 2% in the post-neonatal period), diarrhoeal diseases (11%), and birth asphyxia (10%: 9% during the neonatal period and 1% in the post-neonatal period). Malaria was still a major killer in Sub-Saharan Africa, causing about 15 percent of under-five deaths in the region.
Of the total 7.6 million children who died before 5 years of age, 4.4 million (58%) died of infectious diseases. Of all infections, pneumonia (1.4 million), diarrhoea (800 000) and malaria (563 000) were the leading causes of death, accounting together for 36% of all under-five deaths worldwide. The majority of these deaths can be prevented by known, simple, affordable and low cost interventions such as exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age, immunization, appropriate use of antibiotics, oral rehydration therapy and zinc, insecticide treated bednets, and anti-malarials.
About 40% of deaths in children younger than 5 years occurred before 28 days of life – the neonatal period. The most important cause of death was preterm birth complications. Birth asphyxia and sepsis were the second and third major causes of death in this early period of life, responsible together for 1.2 million deaths. The risk of dying from these conditions can be mitigated with quality care during pregnancy, safe and clean delivery by a skilled attendant, and immediate postnatal care, including neonatal resuscitation, extra care of low birth weight babies, attention to baby warmth, treatment of neonatal sepsis and early initiation of breastfeeding.
Patterns of the distribution of causes of child deaths vary widely between regions. The lowest proportion of neonatal deaths (30%) occurred in the African Region. On the other hand 96% of all under-five deaths due to malaria and 89% of all deaths due to HIV/AIDS worldwide happened in the African Region. In the remaining five WHO regions, high proportions of under-five child deaths occurred during the neonatal period, ranging from 42% in the Eastern Mediterranean Region to 54% in the Western Pacific Region. The proportion of deaths from pneumonia is lowest in the Americas and Europe. Deaths due to diarrhoeal diseases were responsible for only 4% of deaths in these same regions.
The number of under-five deaths worldwide dropped from 12 million in 1990 to 9.6 million in the year 2000 to 7.6 in 2010. Nearly 60% of the 2 million lives saved in the past decade were due to reductions of deaths caused by pneumonia (455 000 fewer deaths), measles (363 000 fewer deaths), and diarrhoea (361 000 fewer deaths). India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, and China contributed to half the mortality attributable to infections and more than half due to neonatal causes worldwide.