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Lancet. 2003 Jul 5;362(9377):65-71.

How many child deaths can we prevent this year?

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  • 1Division of Policy and Planning, United Nations Children's Fund, New York, NY 10017, USA.


This is the second of five papers in the child survival series. The first focused on continuing high rates of child mortality (over 10 million each year) from preventable causes: diarrhoea, pneumonia, measles, malaria, HIV/AIDS, the underlying cause of undernutrition, and a small group of causes leading to neonatal deaths. We review child survival interventions feasible for delivery at high coverage in low-income settings, and classify these as level 1 (sufficient evidence of effect), level 2 (limited evidence), or level 3 (inadequate evidence). Our results show that at least one level-1 intervention is available for preventing or treating each main cause of death among children younger than 5 years, apart from birth asphyxia, for which a level-2 intervention is available. There is also limited evidence for several other interventions. However, global coverage for most interventions is below 50%. If level 1 or 2 interventions were universally available, 63% of child deaths could be prevented. These findings show that the interventions needed to achieve the millennium development goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds by 2015 are available, but that they are not being delivered to the mothers and children who need them.

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