Medical Assistance

Stethoscope iconGet the facts about the health challenges that impoverished children and their families are facing.

Poverty affects children in a variety of ways. One of the most dangerous symptoms of poverty around the world is how it attacks children's health. And one of the most effective ways to stop poverty from stealing the lives of children is to keep them healthy.

The following health facts give you a picture of some of the ways poverty harms children in need.

  • In 2017, 5.4 million children died before reaching their fifth birthday, mostly from preventable diseases, and 2.5 million children died in the first month of life. This translates into 15,000 under-five deaths per day.1
  • Most of the 2.6 million neonatal deaths in 2016 occurred in the first week of life with about 1 million dying on the first day and close to 1 million dying within the next six days.11
  • Infectious diseases and neonatal complications are responsible for the vast majority of under-five deaths around the world. 3
  • Children in sub-Saharan Africa are more than 15 times more likely to die before the age of five than children in high-income countries. 1
  • Leading causes of death in under-five children are preterm birth complications, pneumonia, birth asphyxia, diarrhea and malaria. About 45 percent of all deaths to children under 5 years of age are linked to nutrition-related factors. 1
  • Globally, the main killers of children under age 5 in 2016 included preterm birth complications (18 percent), pneumonia (16 percent), intrapartum-related events (12 percent), diarrhea (8 percent), neonatal sepsis (7 percent) and malaria (5 percent). 3

The statistics and health facts pertaining to easily preventable diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis are among the most heart wrenching because their solution is so obvious.

Mom holding your boy
Child laying in bed with a mosquito net


  • Nearly half of the world's population is at risk of malaria. 4
  • In 2017, 90 countries and territories had ongoing malaria transmission. 4
  • In 2017, Africa was home to 92 percent of malaria cases and 93 percent of malaria deaths. 4
  • There were approximately 219 million cases of malaria in 2017 and 435,000 deaths. 4
  • More than two thirds (70 percent) of all malaria deaths are to children under 5. 4
  • Malaria remains a major killer of children under five years old, taking the life of a child every two minutes. 4

Tuberculosis (TB)

  • Tuberculosis is a top infectious disease killer worldwide. Over 95 percent of tuberculosis cases and deaths are in low- and middle-income countries5
  • In 2017, 10 million people fell ill with tuberculosis and 1.6 million died from the disease. 5
  • In 2017, an estimated 1 million children became ill with tuberculosis and 230,000 children died of TB. 5
  • TB is a leading killer of HIV-positive people. In 2016, 40 percent of HIV deaths were due to tuberculosis. 5
  • About one-quarter of the world's population has latent TB (i.e., infected by TB bacteria but are not (yet) ill with the disease and cannot transmit the disease). 5
  • People with active TB can infect 10-15 other people through close contact over the course of a year. 5

Preterm births

  • Every year, an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm (before 37 completed weeks of gestation). 6
  • More than 60 percent of preterm births occur in Africa and South Asia. 6
  • Preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death among children under 5 years of age, responsible for nearly 1 million deaths in 2015. 6
Preterm baby holding adult finger
Students receiving immunizations


  • Pneumonia is the leading infectious cause of death among children under five, killing 2,400 children a day. 7
  • Pneumonia accounted for 16 percent of all under-five deaths in 2016 and killed 880,000 children.7
  • Most of pneumonia's victims in 2016 were less than 2 years old. 7
  • Mortality due to childhood pneumonia is strongly linked to poverty-related factors such as undernutrition, lack of safe water and sanitation, indoor air pollution and inadequate access to health care. 7
  • Globally, in 2016, 42 percent of children with symptoms of pneumonia were not taken to a health provider for care. 7


  • In 2017, an estimated 19.9 million infants worldwide were not reached with routine immunization services. 8
  • An estimated 1.5 million deaths could be avoided, if global immunization coverage improves. 8

Diarrheal disease

  • Diarrhea is among the top 10 leading causes of death worldwide, killing 1.4 million people in 2016. 2
  • Over 1,300 young children die each day because of diarrhea, despite the availability of simple effective treatment. 9
  • Diarrhea accounted for approximately 8 percent of all deaths among children under age 5 worldwide in 2016. 9
  • Most deaths from diarrhea occur among children less than 2 years of age living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. 9

How Do the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Relate to Compassion?

Students looking through window and smilingThe UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) directly parallel what Compassion does. But when it comes to goals and implementation we sometimes take a different approach. This is a quick analysis of the SDGs and how they most closely match our work, along with ways they overlap and differ.

Learn More >


1 World Health Organization fact sheet, Children: Reducing Mortality, 19 September 2018.

2 World Health Organization Media fact sheet, Top 10 Causes of Death, 24 May 2018.

3 UNICEF, Under-Five Mortality: Current Status + Progress, February 2018.

4 World Health Organization fact sheet, Malaria, 19 November 2018.

5 World Health Organization Media fact sheet, Tuberculosis, 18 September 2018.

6 World Health Organization Media fact sheet, Preterm Birth, 19 February 2018.

7 UNICEF, Pneumonia: Current Status + Progress, March 2018.

8 World Health Organization fact sheet, Immunization Coverage, 16 July 2018.

9 UNICEF, Diarrhoeal Disease: Current Status + Progress, March 2018.