College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine

Study identifies child death causes

Nearly 9 million children die each year before the age of five, according to a new study.

The global study, which included research by the University’s Centre for Population Health Sciences, found that more than two thirds of those children died because of infectious diseases like pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria.

The research, which estimates that 8.8 million under-fives died in 2008, shows that the mortality rate in children is decreasing worldwide. The figure is down from an estimated 10.6 million per year during 2000-2003.

Missing targets

The report - produced on behalf of the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) - states that despite that decline, many countries are still not on track to meet the United Nation’s goal of reducing the number of deaths in under fives by two thirds between 1990 and 2015.

The researchers hope that the estimates in the report will help to identify priorities for child care and provide guidance on how to allocate resources.

The report will be published as a multi-page feature in The Lancet medical journal.

Nearly all countries still face the challenge to reduce child deaths from preventable conditions, irrespective of their number or cause.

World Health Organization report

Developing struggles

The study found that only around one per cent of the under-five deaths occur in high-income countries.

Half of the deaths occur in only five countries - India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and China.

At least 41 percent of the deaths occurred in very young babies, aged up to 27 days old.

According to the research, there were far more child deaths in the United Kingdom than in any other country in Western Europe. The UK, which has a population of around 61 million, had 4,324 deaths in under fives in 2008.

This is the most detailed and comprehensive study of child mortality globally. The findings will help guide countries and international agencies to prioritise actions to reduce child deaths.

Dr Igor RudanSenior Research Fellow, Division of Community Health Sciences