Where and why are 10 million children dying every year?

by Sarah Luna

In the Maternal Child Nutrition course I am taking this semester, we are beginning The Lancet series of five articles on child mortality begun in 2003. I have been told by older colleagues that this was a defining point in their careers.

Indeed tonight I read “Where and why are 10 million children dying every year?” [pdf]. Ten million children under 5 years of age, over 27,000 children dying per day, over 1,000 dying every hour in an endless, methodic march.

Six million dead Jews was a holocaust. Eight hundred thousand dead Rwandans was genocide. What is this? Global neglect?

Worldwide Distribution of Child Deaths. Each dot represents 5000 deaths.

Forty-two countries account for over 90% of child deaths under the age of 5 (India is #1, Rwanda is #42). There were 175 deaths per 1000 live births in Sub-Saharan Africa and only 6 per 1000 in industrialized countries in 2000. The goal was to reduce global mortality to 70 deaths per live births by 2000. We failed miserably. Now we have a new goal to reduce child mortality by two thirds from 1990 to 2015.

The usual culprits are indicated: underweight, diarrhea, pneumonia, measles, neonatal complications, malaria, AIDS.  Of course, maternal health and exclusive breastfeeding drastically reduce risk of death of these causes. So does proper nutrition.

This was a sobering read. We face a grim situation.