One is too Many: Ending Child Deaths from Pneumonia and Diarrehoea

One is too many, UNICEF 2016

One is too Many: Ending Child Deaths from Pneumonia and Diarrehoea

The stakes are high. Pneumonia and diarrhoea are responsible for the unnecessary loss of 1.4 million young lives each year and are a threat to sustainable development for the world’s poorest nations. We have the knowledge and the tools to do better. Child deaths due to diarrhoea and pneumonia are largely preventable – even one death is too many. The fact that children continue to die from these diseases is a reflection of deep inequalities. Pneumonia and diarrhoea are most deadly for the youngest and the poorest children. Within countries, deaths due to pneumonia and diarrhoea continue to be concentrated within the poorest populations.

Low and lower-middle income countries are home to 62 per cent of the world’s under 5 population, but account for more than 90 per cent of global pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths. The very poorest countries carry a disproportionate share of the burden of death: more than 30 per cent of all pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths are concentrated in low-income countries, yet these countries are home to only 15 per cent of the world’s under 5 population.

Pneumonia and diarrhoea mortality disproportionately affect the youngest children: around 80 per cent of deaths associated with pneumonia and approximately 70 per cent of deaths associated with diarrhoea occur during the first two years of life.


Pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths are dropping – but not quickly enough. There has already been substantial progress to reduce pneumonia- and diarrhoea-related mortality since 2000: deaths from these two diseases declined by nearly half.

No child needs to die from pneumonia or diarrhoea; ending preventable child deaths from these diseases is within our grasp 1 out of 6 childhood deaths were due to pneumonia in 2015 920,000 childhood deaths per year 2500 childhood deaths per day 100 childhood deaths per hour 1 childhood death per 35 seconds 601 between 2000 and 2015, from 2.9 million deaths to the current 1.4 million. Diarrhoea deaths have dropped more significantly since 2000, falling from 1.2 million to 526,000 in 2015 – a decline of 57 per cent. Deaths due to pneumonia declined at a slower rate during this period, falling from 1.7 million in 2000 to 920,000 in 2015. Indeed, pneumonia mortality rates have declined at a significantly slower rate than those of other common childhood diseases, such as malaria, measles and HIV. We can end most pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths with a set of tried and tested interventions.

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