•6.9 million children under the age of five died in 2011.
•More than half of these early child deaths are due to conditions that could be prevented or treated with access to simple, affordable interventions.
•Leading causes of death in under-five children are pneumonia, preterm birth complications, diarrhoea, birth asphyxia and malaria. About one third of all child deaths are linked to malnutrition.
•Children in sub-Saharan Africa are about 16.5 times more likely to die before the age of five than children in developed regions.
A child's risk of dying is highest in the neonatal period, the first 28 days of life. Safe childbirth and effective neonatal care are essential to prevent these deaths. 43% of child deaths under the age of five take place during the neonatal period.
Preterm birth, intrapartum-related complications (birth asphyxia or lack of breathing at birth), and infections cause most neonatal deaths. From the end of the neonatal period and through the first five years of life, the main causes of death are pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria. Malnutrition is the underlying contributing factor in over one third of all child deaths, making children more vulnerable to severe diseases.
Overall, substantial progress has been made towards achieving Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4. Since 1990 the global under-five mortality rate has dropped from 87 deaths per 1 000 live births in 1990 to 51 in 2011. But the rate of this reduction in under-five mortality is still insufficient to reach the MDG target of a two-thirds reduction of 1990 mortality levels by the year 2015.
These numbers tell us that every day last year, 18,904 children under five died: about 788 per hour, 13 every minute. I prefer not to think about how many children died while I was composing this post, and those who will die while you're reading it.
WHO notes that "In 2010 about 20 million children worldwide were estimated to suffer from severe acute malnutrition, leaving them more vulnerable to serious illness and early death. ... Globally, in 2010, an estimated 171 million children below five years of age were stunted and 104 million were underweight."