What Is Child Survival?

Child Survival Issues Today

The vast majority of Americans want to help children and their families in the developing world have sick babya true start on a healthy and secure life. Children under 5 are the most vulnerable to early childhood diseases and conditions that contribute to more than 26,000 deaths each day, mainly due to preventable diseases and conditions.

Child Survival is a call to action to save the lives of children under 5 and promote healthy and productive families and communities. We already have the means and technology to save millions of children’s lives each year. The threats and solutions are well known to public health professionals, but we need to inform and educate a wider audience so that action can be taken.

Global Child Survival and Health Facts

Today, more than 26,000 children under age five will die from preventable or treatable causes, such as pneumonia or diarrhea. This loss of almost 9.7 million children each year – equivalent to every child living in the eastern half of the United States – is a global tragedy with humanitarian, economic, and political consequences. And nearly four million of these children die within the first month of life. A majority of these child deaths are from preventable or treatable causes: pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, and measles. Malnutrition, which weakens children’s ability to ward off illness, contributes to more than one-third of all child deaths.

A large gap exists between the health of children in developing and developed countries; on the average the risk of death for children before reaching the age of five is nearly fourteen times greater in the developing world. Most of these deaths take place in the first year of life. Threats to health are exacerbated by the growing number of orphaned infants and children, generally due to the poor health conditions experienced by their parents-notably HIV/AIDS and mother’s deaths in pregnancy and childbirth.

While child mortality rates have declined by about 1 percent every year for the past 20 years, millions of children (particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South and Southeast Asia) still die every year because they lack access to vaccines and other basic care. Current programs are substantially improving child survival and health, but much more can and should be done. For example, vitamin A supplementation saves over a quarter of a million lives each year. Oral rehydration therapy prevents an estimated one million deaths. And immunization programs save the lives of almost four million children.

While we know what works, increased funding is needed. International health experts estimate that a minimum additional investment of $5.1 billion each year is necessary to save the lives of six million children in those countries with the highest rates of child mortality.

Six Million Children Every Year Can Be Saved

In 2000, the US pledged to work with 188 other members of the United Nations to achieve a two-thirds reduction in the number of child deaths by the year 2015. This goal can be achieved with enhanced global commitment to the following basic, cost-effective child health actions:

1. Expand Routine Immunization

Immunization has saved over 20 million lives in the last two decades. Immunization rates for the six major vaccine-preventable diseases – pertussis (also known as whooping cough, tuberculosis, tetanus, polio, measles, and diphtheria – have risen from under 10 percent in the 1970s to nearly 80 percent today. More recently, however, coverage has leveled off. Worldwide, about 30 million children are still not reached each year with routine immunization. Rates in some African countries have dropped to less than 30 percent.

2. Promote Proper Child Feeding and Deliver Essential Micronutrients:

Although malnutrition has decreased 17% in the past decade, the rate of decline has been alarmingly slow in recent years, leaving 20 percent of children in the poorest countries to suffer serious developmental conditions. Promoting exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of an infant’s life, followed by the provision of nutritious, clean, mashed or semi-solid foods and breastfeeding thereafter, can reduce malnutrition, improve growth, and save lives.

Access to micronutrients is also critical for children to survival, develop, and grow. Deficiencies in vitamin A, zinc, iodine and iron, for example, can lead to blindness, severe infection, poor growth, mental retardation, and an increased risk of death. Given directly as supplements or through fortified food, micronutrients are an inexpensive and effective way to prevent these deficiencies.

3. Prevent, Diagnose and Treat Acute Respiratory Infections, Diarrhea, and Malaria:

Acute respiratory infections, usually in the form of pneumonia, contribute to more than two million deaths of children under 5 every year. Many of these deaths could be prevented through a five-day course of antibiotics, which costs as little as 30 cents. Since 1990, childhood deaths from diarrhea have declined by 50 percent. Nevertheless, two million children still die every year from diarrhea.

Key measures to reduce cases of diarrhea are to ensure access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation, good personal and food hygiene, and health education about how infections spread. Additional lives can be saved by giving children with diarrhea oral rehydration salts (ORS) – a simple solution of sugar, salt, and clean water that costs less than 50 cents to treat a single child. Malaria kills a child every 30 seconds – about 800,000 children under 5 every year. The disease accounts for 1 in 5 of all childhood deaths in Africa. By increasing the number of children who sleep under insecticide-treated bed nets, and giving children effective drugs for treating malaria, more than a million lives could be saved.

4. Ensure Safe Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Newborn Care:

One woman dies each minute from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Four million newborns die in their first month of life, mostly from infections (neonatal tetanus, sepsis, diarrhea, and pneumonia), birth asphyxia, premature birth, and unsafe delivery practices. Proper care before, during, and after delivery could prevent most of these maternal and newborn deaths. Child survival could also be improved by providing access to skilled birth attendants; giving basic information on the importance of birth spacing and breastfeeding; warming and drying the newborn; and preventing and treating infections.

Child Survival

Child in poverty stricken countryInfant mortality rates have dropped in many countries, but we need to continue working on child survival. Current statistics show too many children are dying needlessly, between birth and five years of age.

Afghanistan has the highest rate of infant mortality. 121.63 babies die out of every 1000 live births. Niger, Mali, and Somalia also report infant mortality rates as over 100 deaths.

Prenatal Care

A number of factors must be addressed for the sake of child survival. One is the need for prenatal care. Women and girls who are not healthy during their pregnancies place their babies at risk of dying. Prenatal care must include education for pregnant mothers, regular examinations, proper diets, and supplements. It will increase their chance of delivering appropriate birth-weight babies who are healthy and will survive.

Health Care

A second factor is health care for babies and children. This includes preventive care, vaccinations, and care if they do become ill.

Water and Food

Third, contaminated water supplies contribute to illness and death in early childhood. All towns, cities, and rural areas need fresh drinking water that is pure and free from parasites. While many towns have access to portable water filters, there are still a large majority who do not have clean drinking water.

Fourth, infants and children need proper food in order to grow and stay healthy. When they do not have a healthy diet on a daily basis, they are more prone to illnesses and early death. Nutritional food must be made available to all infants and children.

Children are the world’s hope for the future. Whether we are thinking about one individual child, or every child of the world, all children deserve the chance to grow up healthy. No child should come into the world without hope, and no parent should be afraid that his or her infant will not survive to adulthood. We can begin by taking all of these factors into consideration, and start to make a difference.

Good health and a long life are not privileges for some children. They are every child’s right. Whether you can work directly with underprivileged children or make donations, there is something you can do to help. Infant and child mortality can be eliminated.


USAID logo

Child and maternal health is a top priority for the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which has provided more than $2.5 billion in assistance to child survival programs since 1990. It supports special initiatives such as polio eradication, vitamin A supplementation, and food aid.

Together with other government partners – the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – USAID provides the expertise and financial support that are the lifeblood of many partnerships and programs in child health and survival worldwide.
CSHGP Factsheet
Child Survival and Health Grants Program

Child Survival and Health Grants Program

USAID’s Child Survival and Health Grants Program (CSHGP) utilizes the expertise of PVOs and NGOs to implement projects that improve the health of vulnerable populations. The CORE Group, a network of 44 NGOs focused on maternal and child health, and a member of the US Coalition for Child Survival, is a vital part of the CSHGP. For further information, visit the Child Health section of USAID’s Web site.

Environmental Health Project

The Environmental Health Project at USAID provides information about the impact that environmental factors have on child health. Visit their Web site at www.ehproject.org.
Maternal and Child Health Strategic Programming and Priorities

In July 2008, USAID released a new report to Congress, “Working Toward the Goal of Reducing Maternal and Child Mortality: USAID Programming and Response to FY08 Appropriations”. The report includes details of USAID’s strategic programming for maternal and child health activities in 30 priority countries.

On September 4, 2008, key USAID staff made a presentation on the report at an event sponsored by the US Coalition for Child Survival. The slides from the presentation, “Strategically Focusing USAID’s MCH Resources:

Success Stories

BabyOrganizations engaged in child and maternal survival and health have saved and improved the lives of numerous people around the world. Here is a sampling of some of these successes:

Tackling Pneumonia, Village by Village
Community health workers in Senegal are trained to save lives (USAID)

Saving Lives Through Improving Children’s Nutrition
Twenty-five year old village volunteer teaches healthy child-rearing in Cambodia (USAID)

Fighting Malaria with Bed Nets
Insecticide-treated nets are key to East Timor’s anti-malaria strategy (USAID)

Fighting Childhood Malnutrition in Mozambique
6-month-old Nelson is off to a better start in life with a healthy diet (USAID)

Saving the Lives of Children in Eritrea
Eritrea improves immunization from among the worst to the best with USAID help (USAID)

Million-Dollar Pharma Industry Investment in Diarrhea Treatment (pdf)
USAID project promoting the use of zinc treatment in India

Success Stories: Reaching the Child Survival Millennium Development Goal (pdf)
May 2007 case studies of progress made in Bangladesh and Mexico

Millions Saved: Proven Success in Global Health
Twenty case studies produced by the Center for Global Development

Neonatal Health: Cómo Será, Pues? (pdf)
A CORE Group case study on the contribution of NGOs to neonatal health in Bolivia

Saving Children with Simple Tools
USAID report on progress in Tanzania

Improving Child Health and Nutrition in Nicaragua
Over 21,000 families helped across the nation of Nicaragua (USAID)

Vitamin A Distribution Saves Lives In Nepal
More than 3 million children receive vitamin A supplements (USAID)

Reducing Pneumonia’s Toll
Simple solutions save children’s lives in Haiti (USAID)

Child Survival In The News

child in poverty

Even in this day and age, child morality is needlessly high. Many die of preventable and curable causes. In 2012 alone, over 6 million children died before their 5th birthday. While the rate of childhood mortality is decreasing around the world, there is too many childhood deaths resulting from treatable diseases, food and water shortages, and violence.

Child Survival Issues In The News