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Vital facts for averting child deaths

Apr 12, 2010

Facts for Life, a joint UN publication provides vital messages and information for parents, caregivers and communities to use in changing behaviours and practices that can protect the lives of children and help them grow and develop to their full potential. It helps realise the rights of children and women.

Facts for Life

Publisher: United Nations, 2010

Each year, around 9 million children die from preventable and treatable illnesses before reaching their fifth birthday. Many die during their first year of life. Countless more children live in precarious situations and face diminished futures. Five diseases – pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, measles and AIDS – together account for half of all deaths of children under 5 years old. Undernutrition is a contributing cause of more than one third of these deaths.


It is possible to save lives and greatly reduce human suffering by expanding low-cost prevention, treatment and protection measures. The challenge is to ensure that this knowledge is shared with parents, caregivers and communities, who are the first line of defense in protecting children from illness and harm.

Facts for Life has been developed as a vital resource for those who need it most. It delivers essential information on how to prevent child and maternal deaths, diseases, injuries and violence. Parents, grandparents, other caregivers and young people can refer to this practical source of information for answers to their questions related to childbearing and getting children off to the best start in life. The challenge is to ensure that everyone knows and understands these facts and is motivated to put them into practice.

Since Facts for Life was first released in 1989, countless families and communities around the world have put its messages and guidance into practice. These efforts over the years have contributed significantly to progress on key global indicators such as health, education, life expectancy, and infant and maternal morbidity and mortality. Much can be achieved by empowering families and communities to adopt behaviours that improve child survival, growth, learning, development and protection, while also promoting children’s and women’s rights.

The fourth edition of Facts for Life expands on previous editions and contains several significant changes. For example, because of the inextricable link between the health of the mother and the health of the child, a Newborn Health section has been included in the Safe Motherhood chapter.

A chapter on Child Protection has also been added, which focuses on the vulnerabilities of children and the actions needed to ensure that they grow up in supportive environments in the home, school and community.

The publication consists of 14 chapters filled with practical information about how to ensure children’s rights to survival, growth, development and well-being. The topics address pregnancy, childbirth, major childhood illnesses, child development, early learning, parenting, protection, and care and support of children.

Each chapter has three parts: an introduction, key messages and supporting information.

The introduction is a brief ‘call to action’. It summarises the extent of the problem and the importance of taking action. The introduction aims to inspire people to get involved and share this information widely. It can be used to motivate political leaders and the mass media.

The key messages, addressed to parents and other caregivers, are the essence of Facts for Life. They contain the essential information that people need to protect their children. The key messages are clear, brief and practical, so people can easily understand them and take the recommended action. These messages are meant to be communicated often and in various ways through multiple channels of communication.

The supporting information elaborates on each key message, providing additional details and advice. This information is particularly useful for community-based workers, health workers, social workers, teachers and families – anyone who wants to know more about the survival, growth, development and protection of infants and children. It can be used to answer questions from parents and other caregivers.

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