Child survival

Every child grows and thrives

We believe that every child, regardless of circumstances or socio-economic background, has the right to grow and thrive.

No child should die from preventable causes

Every year in developing countries, millions of children's lives are tragically cut short by preventable causes. Fortunately, saving lives doesn’t need to be complicated or cost-intensive, and UNICEF works to safeguard every child's most basic right - the right to survive.

Pneumonia is the biggest killer of children. In 2015, one in six childhood deaths was due to pneumonia, and around half of those deaths were caused by harmful indoor air pollution.

Unsafe indoor pollution is caused by cooking, and heating homes with open fires which burn solid fuels such as coal, wood, crop waste and manure. Without proper ventilation, tiny soot particles infiltrate the lungs, inflaming smaller airways and triggering acute respiratory infections. 

Simple measures such as ventilating the home, and providing access to cleaner cooking stoves will all contribute to lowering the under-5 mortality rate.

Diarrhoea continues to be a significant cause of under-five deaths, despite the availability of easy and affordable treatments. It can mean dehydration, malnutrition, weakened immune system, and even death for children who aren't given proper treatment.

Children are dying from this easily-preventable illness every single day - one out of ten childhood deaths in 2015 was due to diarrhoea. 

Access to safe drinking water, adequate nutritious food, promoting hand-washing, and education around suitable treatment will all save lives.

Forty-five per cent of all under-five deaths happen during the first month of life. Most of these deaths are preventable. Birth attendant care, newborn resuscitation, and preventing brain damage after oxygen deprivation are all proven to save young lives.

The presence of a skilled health attendant at a child's birth greatly increases the infant’s chance of survival, but too many mothers in the least developed countries have to give birth without this assistance.

Postnatal care is also a crucial time to check up on the baby’s health, detect warning signs of potential problems, and offer advice on breastfeeding and immunisation, which all improve a baby’s chance of survival.

Malaria kills over one million children every year, most of whom are less than five years old. It can be easily treated with antimalarial drugs, and simple preventative measures such as using mosquito nets and insect repellent are effective. 

The highly contagious measles virus is responsible for 330 child deaths every day, despite the availability of a safe, effective and affordable vaccine. UNICEF has vaccinated 1.8 billion children since 2000, and saved more than 20 million lives in the process. But anything less than 95 per cent vaccination coverage can lead to new outbreaks, so funding for vaccinations in developing countries must continue until measles is eradicated.

Bacteria can causes deadly diseases including tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough and tuberculosis. Preventing infant deaths from these infections is achievable, but immunisation must be prioritised to ensure that every child is protected.

What progress has been made?

Although there is much to be done to end preventable child and infant deaths, significant progress has been made.

Since 1990, the under-five mortality rate has decreased from an estimated 91 deaths per 1,000 live births, to 42. That means 17,000 fewer children are dying each day.

Widespread vaccination campaigns have helped reduce under-five mortality. Since 2000, the lives of nearly 16 million children have been saved through receiving measles vaccinations. 

Although this progress is encouraging, UNICEF is committed to eliminating preventable child deaths, and ensuring every child, everywhere, has a healthy childhood.

Sustainable Development Goals

In September 2016, world leaders at a UN summit adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 

In September 2016, world leaders at a UN summit adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which officially came into force on January 1, 2016. These goals apply universally to both developed and developing countries, and they outline 17 crucial aims that need to be achieved before 2030.

Several of the goals relate to the unacceptably high global child mortality rate. Currently, 79 countries have a child mortality rate of over 25 deaths per 1,000 live births, and four out of five child deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Every country, wealthy and poor, must mobilise efforts to end preventable child death and realise these 17 goals.

UNICEF's Sustainable Development Goals are guided by four fundamental principles.

improve
NEONATAL care

By 2030, reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births

protect children UNDER 5

By 2030, reduce under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births

reduce preventable DISEASEs

By 2030, reduce by a third the premature mortality from non-communicable diseases

end HUNGER worldwide

By 2030, end hunger and ensure to sufficient nutritious food all year round