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Almost Half of Deaths in Kids Under 5 Occur in 5 Countries

Two-thirds of cases due to infectious diseases, researchers report

TUESDAY, May 11 (HealthDay News) -- Infectious diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria and blood poisoning account for more than two-thirds of the 8.8 million annual deaths in kids under 5 years of age worldwide, a new report shows.

Other leading causes of death for children include birth complications, lack of oxygen during birth and congenital defects.

The authors of the report found that infectious diseases caused 5.97 million deaths among kids under age 5 in 2008. Pneumonia (18 percent), diarrhea (15 percent) and malaria (8 percent) accounted for the highest numbers. About 40 percent of the deaths were in infants aged no more than 27 days.

Almost half of these deaths occurred in just five countries -- China, Nigeria, India, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Pakistan.

Africa (4.2 million) and Southeast Asia (2.39 million) accounted for the highest numbers of deaths.

Countries with high average incomes, for example, the United States, were more likely to have a higher rate of deaths caused by injuries.

There is some good news: While there are more kids under the age of 5 in the world, the number of deaths among them has fallen from 10.6 million per year from 2000-2003 to 8.8 million in 2008, the authors noted.

The report, written by Robert E. Black of the department of international health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and colleagues on behalf of the Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group of the World Health Organization and UNICEF, was released online May 11 in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of The Lancet.

The authors wrote: "We challenge countries and programs to advance the quality and consistency of data on causes of death, and, most importantly to use such data in the design of programs to achieve maximum progress in the crucial few years before [The Millennium Development Goal target of] 2015."

More information

Check out UNICEF's goals regarding child mortality for 2015.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, May 11, 2010

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