Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Childhood deaths

"Preventable infectious diseases cause two-thirds of child deaths, according to a new study published by The Lancet." Based on information provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF's Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group (CHERG), the study examined causes of childhood death in 193 countries. "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."

It is estimated that 8.8 million children die annually. Over 5.5 million children die from pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, and other infectious diseases. These diseases are preventable and treatable, but many victims are unable to reach or afford prophylactics or proper medical care.

"These findings have important implications for national programs," said UNICEF Chief of Health, Dr. Mickey Chopra. "The persistence of diarrhea, 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."

Read more: Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health (2010, May 12). Infectious diseases caused two-thirds of the nearly 9 million child deaths globally in 2008. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 12, 2010, from¬ /releases/2010/05/100511201732.htm

Robert E Black, Simon Cousens, Hope L Johnson, Joy E Lawn, Igor Rudan, Diego G Bassani, Prabhat Jha, Harry Campbell, Christa Fischer Walker, Richard Cibulskis, Thomas Eisele, Li Liu, Colin Mathers, for the Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group of the World Health Organization and UNICEF. Global, regional, and national causes of child mortality in 2008: a systematic analysis. The Lancet, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60549-1


  1. I wonder how many of these preventable diseases are going untreated because of lack of infrastructure and political instability (which often accompanies it)? To flip that around the other way, could these diseases be prevented or these deaths minimized, by supporting political and infrastructure solutions? So much of aid seems to be direct aid that buys things like nets. Certainly that is one practical way to fight the problem, but is there any way to promote better infrastructure too?

  2. Ideally I would like to follow an 80/20 rule, with 80% going toward direct methods like Nothing But Nets, and 20% going toward longer-term infrastructure solutions.

  3. In the case of malaria, bednets provide immediate relief in a visible and verifiable way. Infrastructure changes certainly affect the prevalence of diseases and how they are treated; however, the benefits trickle down in an ambiguous way. There are funds and programs that seek governmental, political, and ideological change in order to reduce disease, but it is difficult to engage the American public (for instance) in these initiatives because the results are hard to quantify and most people will not be able to participate. Anyone can donate a bednet. Not everyone can go to African villages to convince the local officials to pour money into the health system.

    So, to sum it up: Yes, there are other ways to improve the situation, but they're not easily advertised.

  4. Thanks! I like your suggestion (on Twitter) of USAID for infrastructure-oriented giving.

    Website (in case it's of use to others):