15 Causes of Under-5 Mortality: What You Need to Know

This article discusses the leading causes of under-5 mortality and what can be done to reduce it. Child mortality is a critical global issue, with millions of children under the age of five succumbing to preventable causes every year. Understanding the reasons behind under-5 mortality is essential in devising effective strategies to address this heartbreaking problem. This article delves into the main causes of under-5 mortality, shedding light on the factors that contribute to this alarming statistic.

15 most common causes of under-5 mortality

Under-5 mortality refers to the death of a child under the age of 5. In 2021, an estimated 5.0 million children under 5 died, which is equivalent to 12,000 deaths every day. The leading causes of under-5 mortality are:

1. Insufficient Healthcare Access

Access to healthcare services is a fundamental determinant of child survival. In many parts of the world, especially in low-income regions, there is limited access to quality healthcare facilities. Lack of prenatal care, immunization programs, and skilled birth attendants often lead to preventable deaths during childbirth and infancy.

2. Malnutrition and Starvation

Malnutrition is a significant contributor to under-5 mortality. Insufficient intake of vital nutrients during early childhood can weaken a child’s immune system, making them more susceptible to infectious diseases. Additionally, extreme hunger and starvation in poverty-stricken areas can exacerbate the problem, leading to a higher mortality rate among young children.

3. Infectious Diseases

Infectious diseases such as pneumonia, malaria, diarrhea, and measles are leading causes of death in children under five. These diseases spread rapidly in overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions, making young children especially vulnerable. Lack of access to vaccines and proper medical treatment further exacerbates the impact of infectious diseases on child mortality.

4. Lack of Immunization

Immunization is a crucial aspect of child healthcare. Vaccines help protect children from life-threatening diseases and significantly reduce child mortality rates. However, in some regions, there is limited awareness and access to immunization programs, leading to outbreaks of preventable diseases and a higher number of child deaths.

5. Unsafe Drinking Water and Poor Sanitation

Access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation facilities is vital for child health. Contaminated water sources can cause severe illnesses, particularly among young children with weaker immune systems. Poor sanitation also leads to the spread of diseases, further contributing to under-5 mortality.

6. Lack of Education and Awareness

Educational disparities often play a role in child mortality. In communities with low literacy rates and limited access to health-related information, parents may not be aware of best practices for child care and disease prevention. This lack of awareness can result in delayed or inadequate treatment, increasing the risk of child mortality.

7. Conflict and Civil Unrest

Regions affected by conflict and civil unrest face unique challenges in providing healthcare and maintaining adequate living conditions for children. Disruptions in healthcare services, displacement, and the destruction of infrastructure further exacerbate child mortality rates in such areas.

8. Birth Complications

Complications during childbirth can have dire consequences for both the mother and the newborn. Inadequate prenatal care and a lack of skilled birth attendants contribute to a higher risk of birth-related complications, leading to under-5 mortality.

9. Lack of Adequate Maternal Care

Maternal health directly impacts child survival. When mothers receive proper healthcare during pregnancy and childbirth, it positively influences the health and well-being of their children. In regions where maternal care is lacking, child mortality rates tend to be higher.

10. Air Pollution

Air pollution is a growing concern and has been linked to various health issues, including under-5 mortality. Exposure to pollutants, both indoors and outdoors, can lead to respiratory problems and other health complications, especially in vulnerable young children.

11. Poverty and Socioeconomic Factors

Poverty and socioeconomic disparities play a significant role in child mortality rates. Families living in poverty often struggle to meet basic needs, including adequate nutrition and healthcare, putting their children at a higher risk of death.

12. Limited Access to Education

Education empowers individuals with knowledge and skills that can improve overall health and well-being. In regions with limited access to education, there is a higher likelihood of unhealthy practices and limited awareness of child health issues.

13. Inadequate Family Planning

Family planning is crucial in ensuring that families have the resources to provide for their children adequately. In areas where family planning services are lacking, larger family sizes may strain available resources, impacting child health and survival.

14. Gender Inequality

Gender inequality can indirectly affect child mortality rates. In communities where girls have limited access to education and healthcare compared to boys, there may be adverse effects on maternal and child health.

15. Lack of Government Investment in Healthcare

Adequate investment in healthcare infrastructure and services is crucial for reducing under-5 mortality. Governments must prioritize healthcare and allocate sufficient resources to address child health issues effectively.

How to Prevent Under-5 Mortality

There are a number of interventions that can be implemented to reduce under-5 mortality. These include:

  • Improving access to healthcare: This includes providing access to skilled birth attendants, postnatal care, and treatment for common childhood diseases.
  • Improving sanitation: This includes providing access to clean water and sanitation facilities.
  • Improving nutrition: This includes providing access to nutritious foods and promoting breastfeeding.
  • Preventing violence: This includes reducing exposure to violence and providing support to families and communities affected by violence.


Child mortality remains a pressing global concern, and understanding its causes is essential in developing effective strategies to combat it. Improving access to healthcare, addressing malnutrition, combating infectious diseases, promoting immunization, ensuring access to clean water and sanitation, and addressing socio-economic factors are key steps toward reducing under-5 mortality rates.


What are the main causes of under-5 mortality?

The main causes of under-5 mortality include insufficient healthcare access, malnutrition, infectious diseases, lack of immunization, unsafe drinking water, and poverty.

How does malnutrition contribute to child mortality?

Malnutrition weakens a child’s immune system, making them more susceptible to diseases and infections, leading to higher mortality rates.

What role does education play in reducing child mortality?

Education plays a crucial role in raising awareness about child health and disease prevention, ultimately contributing to lower child mortality rates.

Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and should not substitute professional medical advice.

Name -Parika Parika holds a Master's in Nursing and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Nursing. In addition to her clinical experience, Parika has also served as a nursing instructor for the past 10 years, she enjoys sharing her knowledge and passion for the nursing profession.

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