Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

Child mortality

Most deaths among children aged one to five years are due to diseases that can be prevented, but that can also be easily treated at home or in health facilities.

For some of the most deadly childhood diseases, such as measles, vaccines are available and timely completion of immunization protects a child from this illness and death.

Major causes of death in neonates and children under five globally - 2013

Acute respiratory illnesses

Acute respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia, are the largest single cause of death in children under five. Addressing the major risk factors for the illness - malnutrition and indoor air pollution - is essential to prevention, along with vaccination. Once children have a serious respiratory illness, they need appropriate care by a trained health provider, including access to antibiotics and oxygen.


Diarrhoea can be prevented with exclusive breastfeeding and good hygiene and sanitary practices. When a child with diarrhoea becomes dehydrated, rapid treatment is necessary with Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) and zinc supplements.


Malaria can be prevented by the use of protective nets treated with insecticide that prevent mosquitoes from biting a child. If a child is bitten and has malaria, rapid and appropriate care is essential.


Over 90% of children with HIV are infected through mother-to-child transmission, which is preventable with the use of anti-retrovirals, as well as safer delivery and feeding practices. Anti-retroviral therapy for HIV-infected children greatly improves survival rates and quality of life. Without interventions, over half of all HIV-infected children die before their second birthday.


About 20 million young children worldwide are severely malnourished, which leaves them more vulnerable to illness and early death. Mothers and other caretakers need to know how to feed their child correctly to prevent nutritional problems. If a child becomes malnourished appropriate care is essential. Around three quarters of malnourished children can be treated with "ready-to-use therapeutic foods". These highly fortified and energy-rich foods provide ample nutrients for malnourished children aged over six months to be treated at home.