(HealthDay News) — Nearly two million children younger than 5 died worldwide in 2013 of complications from premature birth and pneumonia, according to a study published online October 1 in The Lancet.

In all, 6.3 million children under 5 died in 2013, said researchers who examined the leading causes of death. The causes were found to be complications from premature birth, resulting in 965,000 deaths; pneumonia, which caused 935,000 deaths; and childbirth complications, which led to 662,000 deaths. Nearly 52% of children died from infectious diseases such as pneumonia, malaria, and diarrhea. The highest numbers of deaths among children younger than 5 were in China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Together, these nations accounted for about half of all deaths globally in this age group in 2013.

While child mortality rates fell from about 77 to 46 per 1,000 live births between 2000–2013, the researchers predicted that 4.4 million children under age 5 will die in 2030 if current trends continue. They anticipated that 60% of the deaths will occur in sub-Saharan Africa. However, an increased commitment to preventing the leading causes of death among young children could reduce that toll to 2.8 million deaths in 2030, the researchers said.

The findings show that only a handful of countries are likely to meet the 2015 Millennium Development Goals’ objective to reduce the death rate among children younger than age 5 by two-thirds between 1990–2015.

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