Why are millions of children and women dying?

The countries and regions in which children under five are dying in large numbers are well known, and the main proximate causes of premature deaths and ill health are also well established.  The latest data related statistics by topic and country are available here at UNICEF Data.

Many conditions and diseases interact to increase child mortality beyond their individual impacts. For example, child undernutrition, unsafe water, poor hygiene practices and inadequate sanitation are not only the causes of the continued high incidence of diarrhoeal diseases, they are a significant contributing factor in under-five mortality caused by pneumonia, neonatal disorders and undernutrition. For more information, visit our Nutrition and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene pages.

In addition, the lack of access to vital services and technologies is compounded by a lack of information. Households and communities often do not know why key health interventions (such as immunizations) are vital, how to recognize a disease’s symptoms, or when to seek help. Communication for Development approaches can be critical to address this problem. Maternal education is a very important factor as well: an educated mother is more likely to know, for example, the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, how to treat malnutrition and diarrhoea and the importance of family planning. For more information, visit our Basic Education and Gender Equality pages.

Further, children are also at risk due to HIV/AIDS, particularly those living in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. For more information, visit our HIV/AIDS pages.

Children are also dying as a direct result of armed conflicts, as well as the indirect effects of population displacement, living conditions with poor hygiene, disruption of health services and interruption in food supply. Natural disasters or other emergencies resulting from environmental mismanagement can have similar effects. For more information, visit our Child Protection and  Emergencies and Humanitarian Action pages.







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