Child mortality in Bangladesh - why, when, where and how? A national survey-based analysis

Ahmed Ehsanur Rahman, Aniqa Tasnim Hossain, Abu Bakkar Siddique, Sabrina Jabeen, Mohammod Jobayer Chisti, David H Dockrell, Harish Nair, Kanta Jamil, Harry Campbell, Shams El Arifeen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Updated information on the cause of childhood mortality is essential for developing policies and designing programmes targeting the major burden of disease. There is a paucity of evidence regarding the current estimates of the cause of death in Bangladesh, which is essential for reinvigorating the current policies and reshaping existing strategies to avert preventable deaths. This paper aims to address this critical evidence gap and report the cause, timing and place of death among children under-five years of age using a nationally representative sample.

Methods: The present study was undertaken to provide updated estimates of causes of death among children under-five years of age using data from the 2017-18 round of the Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey (BDHS). The verbal autopsy (VA) questionnaire of the 2017-18 BDHS was adapted from the standardised WHO 2016 instruments. Specially trained physicians reviewed the responses of the VA questionnaire and assigned the cause of death based on the online-2016-version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10). We included 456 deaths among children under-five years of age in our analysis. Descriptive statistics were used to present the causes, timing and places of death with uncertainty ranges (UR).

Results: Pneumonia is the major killer (19%), accounting for approximately 24 268 (UR = 21 626-26 695) under-five deaths per-year. It is followed by birth asphyxia (16%), prematurity and low-birth-weight (11%), serious infections including sepsis (8%) causing 20 882 (UR = 18 608-22 970), 14 956 (UR = 13 327-16,452), and 10 723 (UR = 9555-11,795) deaths per-year, respectively. Drowning (8%) caused 10 441 (UR = 9304-11 485) deaths and congenital anomaly (7%) resulted in d 8748 (UR = 7795-9623) deaths per-year. Around 29% of all deaths occurred on the first day, 52% within the first week, and 66% within the first month of life. Around 70% of birth asphyxia, prematurity, and low birth weight-related deaths happen on the day of birth. Approximately 43% of pneumonia-related deaths occur in age 1-11 months, and around 51% of drowning-related deaths happen in age 12-23 months.

Conclusions: Pneumonia with other serious infections, birth asphyxia, prematurity and low-birth-weight are responsible for more than half of all deaths among children under-five years of age. Strengthening the existing maternal, neonatal and child health programmes may be helpful in averting the majority of these preventable deaths. A multisectoral approach is required for the prevention of childhood deaths, especially drowning-related fatalities. Special measures need to be taken to prevent and control emerging public health challenges like birth defects and congenital anomalies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)04052
JournalJournal of Global Health
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sep 2021


  • Autopsy
  • Bangladesh/epidemiology
  • Cause of Death
  • Child
  • Child Mortality
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn


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