Preventable diseases 'caused 60% of infant deaths'

Preventable infectious diseases caused the deaths of two-thirds of children worldwide in 2008, a new study has shown.

Data from 193 countries around the world was studied by experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF's Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group (CHERG) to provide the estimated infant mortality rates, according to country, region and the world.

The findings of the report were published in the leading medical journal, the Lancet.

Over the past decade, the number of deaths has declined. However, millions of children under five still die from causes that are preventable.

The study expressed the view that efforts have to be made to specifically target the biggest problems depending on the area.

For example, malaria is responsible for 16 per cent of the deaths in Africa, whereas it is a relatively minor disease in the rest of the world.

In 2008, the number of newborn deaths increased as a proportion of child deaths to 41 per cent from 37 per cent in 2000.

According to the United Nations health agency, death rates in developing countries could be improved if babies were given better care during their first months of life.