Infectious diseases account for two-third child deaths

Preventable infectious diseases accounted for two-thirds of the nine million child deaths in 2008, says a new study.

Washington: Preventable infectious diseases accounted for two-thirds of the nine million child deaths in 2008, says a new study.
Experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Unicef`s Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group (CHERG) assessed data from 193 countries to produce estimates by country, region and the world.

While the number of deaths has declined globally over the last decade, the analysis reveals how millions of children under five die every year from preventable causes.

"With less than five years to reach the United Nations Millennium Development Goal 4 - to reduce child deaths by two-thirds from 1990 levels - it is vital for governments, public health organisations, and donors to have accurate country-level estimates so they can target their efforts effectively," said study leader Robert Black, who heads the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"These findings have important implications for national programmes," said Unicef Chief of Health Mickey Chopra.

"The persistence of diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria, all of which are easily preventable and curable but which nonetheless remain the leading single causes of death worldwide, should spur us to do more to control these diseases."

The study`s country and regional estimates, however, underscore how global efforts must be targeted to have maximum impact.

Malaria, for instance, is responsible for approximately 16 percent of deaths in Africa, but is a comparatively minor disease in the rest of the world.

The study did reveal successes in fighting some infectious diseases, such as measles and tetanus - each now only accounts for one percent of child deaths worldwide.

Newborn deaths - those within the first month of life - increased as a proportion of all child deaths globally from 37 percent in 2000 to 41 percent in 2008, said a Johns Hopkins release.

The two greatest single causes of death among neonates (newborns) are pre-term birth complications and birth-related asphyxia.

The quantity and quality of child survival data have steadily improved over the last decade. For the first time, national data from China and India were used instead of modelled estimates.

These findings were published by The Lancet.