The No. 1 Reason Kids Die Before the Age of 5 May Surprise You

We’ve come a long way in our ability to prevent diseases before they take innocent people’s lives. We’ve also gotten better at treating the symptoms of disease when it’s too late for preventative care. Medicine and science are far from perfect, though. Many lives still end too soon due to health complications.

What are the most common reasons kids die young? They have nothing to do with violence, or even neglect. Often times, loving, dedicated parents do their best to keep their children safe, but their best isn’t always enough.

The good news is, child mortality rates are dropping

Children playing with wooden toys

There is some good news to take away here. | FamVeld/iStock/Getty Images

If you find yourself feeling like the world is falling apart and everything is terrible, there’s one statistic you might appreciate. From 1990 to 2015, child mortality rates dropped by almost half. Fewer innocent children are dying from disease, which means, somewhere, someone is doing something right.

Still, too many children don’t make it past the age of five. Here are the most common reasons this happens around the world.

Next: These deaths are preventable, but many kids never recover.

6. Diarrhea

baby in a diaper holding its feet

Dehydration is a serious concern for children with diarrhea. | Lydie B/iStock/Getty Images

If a child develops diarrhea, they can die from dehydration fairly quickly if they aren’t given fluids. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diarrhea is responsible for at least 2,195 children’s deaths daily.

Next: This is one of the most preventable causes of child mortality worldwide.

5. Malnutrition

Sad child being held by his mother

A staggering number of children die from this every year. | Tatyana Tomsickova/ iStock/Getty Images Plus

Malnutrition causes nearly 45% of all deaths among children under the age of 5. Infants and toddlers who aren’t fed properly — whether that’s measured in calories or quality of food — can’t survive for long without intervention.

Next: A mother can pass this on to her newborn child.

4. Newborn infections

Pregnant woman holding her stomach on a plane

Many newborns die from bacterial infections. | Nadezhda1906/iStock/Getty Images

Newborn babies can’t fight off serious infections, which is why so many contract and ultimately die from viruses such as HIV, or bacterial infections. Newborn or neonatal infections can start before, during, or immediately after birth.

Next: Not all of these complications are preventable.

3. Birth defects

Newborn baby holding a hand

Birth defects can be a serious concern. | mmpile/iStock/Getty Images

Birth defects or congenital abnormalities occur in about 3% of all live births in the United States alone. While some can be prevented during pregnancy, many cannot. These are the most common birth defects parents should be aware of.

Next: Some babies’ immune systems just can’t fight this off.

2. Pneumonia

father holding his newborn

Pneumonia complications can be life-threatening for anyone, especially babies. | iStock.com

The World Health Organization reported that over 920,000 children under the age of 5 died due to complications related to pneumonia in 2015. Many kids and infants’ immune systems can’t fight off infections such as these, especially highly contagious ones.

Next: This is the most common cause of death in children — and the most heartbreaking.

1. Preterm birth

happy couple cradling their sleeping newborn

A baby born before 37 weeks is at risk. | iStock.com

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 15 million babies are born before 37 weeks every year. This increases the risk of complications during and after birth. In 2015, preterm birth complications caused about 1 million total deaths around the world.

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