Children die before their fifth birthday


Children under five in low- and middle-income countries are vitamin a deficient


Children under five are stunted

The Challenge

Every year over five million children die before their fifth birthday.

Adequate nutrition in the first years of a child’s life provides the essential building blocks for brain development, healthy growth, and a strong immune system, and it helps prevent future non-communicable diseases associated with overweight.

Despite significant recent accomplishments made in reducing child mortality, every year over five million children die before their fifth birthday because of:

  • Inadequate infant and young child nutrition (IYCN), especially a lack of breastfeeding
  • Deficiencies in micronutrients such as vitamin A and iron
  • Diarrhoea

Malnutrition in children

Malnutrition contributes to 45% of the deaths of children under five.

Recent assessments indicate that although most countries have national IYCN policies in place, there remain many gaps in action. Combined with staggering levels of food insecurity, almost half of the world’s children under five years old are considered anaemic, and 144 million are stunted.

Globally, only two out of every five infants are exclusively breastfed. Rates of exclusive breastfeeding vary by region and by country, but globally, it is stalled at 40% − far from the global goal of at least 80%, and the World Health Assembly target of 50% by 2025.

Vitamin A deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency is the world’s leading preventable cause of childhood blindness.

Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) remains a global health problem due to poor diets and recurrent infections among children under five. VAD is associated with significantly higher morbidity and mortality from common childhood infections. In 2013, approximately 29% of children under five in low- and middle-income countries were vitamin A-deficient.


Diarrhoea continues to be a leading cause of child deaths, totaling over 480,000 deaths every year.

Eight percent of all deaths of children under five are due to diarrhoea. In the post-neonatal period, this is second only to pneumonia and is equivalent to the number of deaths from malaria and HIV/AIDS combined. This equates to over 1,300. These deaths are avoidable, however, care-seeking for childhood diarrhoea remains low in many settings; caregivers often wait until the child is very ill before seeking care outside the home, and the health service they receive is not always adequate.

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