Africa: Child Mortality in Africa – An Infectious Disease Perspective

Infectious diseases are a leading cause of death worldwide, more especially in low and middle-income countries, particularly in young children.

Infectious diseases were responsible for the largest global burden of premature death and disability until the end of the twentieth century. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that in 2016, about three infectious diseases were ranked in the top ten causes of death globally; namely, lower respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases, and tuberculosis, which have cumulatively killed about 5.7 million people. It has been reported that in Africa, more than 70.0% of deaths among children under 5 are caused by infectious diseases. Malaria causes about 15.0% of deaths among under 5 years of age children in sub-Saharan Africa. Since 1970, the global under-five mortality has been decreasing. Smallpox was responsible for about 300-500 million deaths in the twentieth century and it was declared to be the first disease eradicated from the planet as a result of a global immunization campaign by the World Health Organization. Poliovirus has been eliminated from almost all countries.

Africa is a region in which the majority of children are living with HIV. Reports from many African countries reveal that AIDS is becoming an increasingly significant contributor to child mortality. In 2016, worldwide about 120,000 children died due to AIDS-related illnesses. This corresponds to about 328 deaths daily. In the African region, AIDS contributed to only 6% of the child mortality, and more than 30% of the AIDS-related deaths were found among Southern African countries. A study reveals that mother-to-child transmission of HIV ranges from 15 to 45%, with about 20% resulting from breastfeeding. A study conducted in Uganda reported 2-year mortality rates of 547,166 and 128 per 1000 among HIV-infected children, HIV-negative children of HIV-positive mothers, and HIV-negative children of HIV-negative mothers. Under 5 years children living with HIV are more likely to die than people of any age group living with HIV.