In 2010, between a quarter and half of all newborn deaths occurred within the first 24 hours after birth. Many of these deaths were in babies born too early and too small, babies with infections, or babies asphyxiated around the time of delivery. Labour, birth and the immediate postnatal period are the most dangerous time for both newborn babies and their mothers.

The most common causes of death in children under-five are:

  • Birth asphyxia, failure to initiate and sustain breathing at birth, which accounts for about a quarter of all newborn deaths across the world. Effective resuscitation at birth can prevent a large proportion of these deaths.
  • Pneumonia, the prime cause of death in children under five. The major risk factors include malnutrition and indoor air pollution. Measures to prevent it include vaccination and breastfeeding, and children who suffer from pneumonia need access to antibiotics and oxygen.
  • Pre-term birth complications– pre-term birth is rising in most countries, and is now the second leading cause of death globally for children under five, after pneumonia. Low-birth-weight babies are more likely to survive if they are kept warm by skin-to-skin contact with the mother.
  • Diarrhoeal diseases, which are a major cause of sickness and death among children in developing countries. Breastfeeding helps prevent diarrhoea among young children and treatment with oral rehydration salts combined with zinc supplements is safe, cost-effective, and saves lives.
  • Malaria, which kills one child every minute. Insecticide-treated bed nets prevent transmission and increase child survival.
  • Measles, which is a leading cause of childhood mortality. Measles can be completely prevented with two doses of a safe, effective and inexpensive vaccine but in many developing countries, poverty, poor health systems and a lack of information can make it difficult for families to secure preventative vaccinations for each of their children.
  • Malnutrition, which makes children more vulnerable to severe diseases, is an underlying factor in about one-third of all child deaths.

Most babies and infants could survive these threats and thrive if they had access to simple, affordable interventions.