Beating the Child Killers

Pneumonia and diarrhea account for 29% of deaths of children under five years old – more than twice the total for HIV and malaria combined, and nearly as many as all other infectious diseases, injuries, and other post-neonatal conditions put together. But both diseases are easily prevented, creating an imperative for global action.

GENEVA – Ask most people to name the two biggest causes of death among children, and they will most likely say malaria and HIV. In fact, it is pneumonia and diarrhea – the “forgotten killers” – that are responsible for the highest death toll, claiming more than two million of the most vulnerable lives every year.

Together, these two diseases account for 29% of all deaths of children under five years old. That is more than double the total for HIV and malaria combined, and nearly as many as all other infectious diseases, injuries, and other post-neonatal conditions put together.

Yet as shocking as these statistics are, what is perhaps even more surprising is just how preventable pneumonia and diarrhea are – so much so that it would be quite feasible to introduce measures that by 2025 would reduce their death toll to almost zero. That is precisely what we are now aiming to do.

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