Leading Causes of Death in Developing Countries


SEATTLE — The leading causes of death in developing countries are severe poverty and pollution. Between 50 and 60 percent of all deaths in the poorest developing countries occur before a child reaches the age of five. This means that for every 1,000 births, there are 100 to 150 deaths in the first year and an additional 100 to 150 deaths before the age of five.

Severe poverty is one of the two leading causes of death in developing countries. Poverty results in malnutrition, poor living conditions, overcrowding, inadequate sanitation and unclean drinking water. With environments prone to infection and disease, developing countries have high contraction rates for diseases such as malaria and sepsis. High infant mortality rates are compounded by a lack of access to quality healthcare.

Governments have worked to make healthcare and sustainability a priority for developing countries. One initiative was the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These ran from 1990 to 2015 and aimed to reduce global poverty. Solutions that resulted ranged from providing universal vaccine coverage to creating sustainable clean water systems within developing areas.

With the end of the MDGs, the U.N. has launched its new initiative the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are 17 goals that piggyback off the MDGs to further the progress that has been made toward eliminating global poverty. These goals are a continuation on a more global scale, involving high, middle and low-income countries in developing strategies to reducing poverty. By reducing poverty, the SDGs will help in the overall diminution of high mortality rates within developing countries.

In 2012, it was recorded that one in every seven deaths was caused by pollution in some form. This ranges from exposure to contaminated water from wastes, such as plastic or oil dumping, to pollutants in the air caused by trapped particulates creating smog. Pollution is the catalyst for many of the diseases in developing countries that result in high mortality rates, such as malaria, pneumonia or diarrhea.

Part of the SDGs is creating a cleaner, greener global environment. This addresses another leading cause of death in developing countries: pollution. Five of the 17 goals are specifically dedicated to protecting the planet. In the context of pollution specifically, “sub-goal 3.9 currently calls to reduce death and disability from all types of pollution”.

Alongside the establishment of the SDGs is the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP). The GAHP emphasizes the importance of reducing pollution to increase global health. The organization emphasizes the importance of identifying toxic pollutants and creates plans to prioritize action for problems affecting health and implement solutions. Many preventative measures include improving water quality, reducing waste dumping, increasing recycling and implementing more reusable common items.

While the leading causes of death in developing countries are broad, when broken down, there are clear steps that can be taken to improve prevention and reduction of pollution and poverty. By taking those steps, premature deaths among vulnerable populations can be avoided.

Taylor Elgarten

Photo: Flickr


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