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Despite substantial declines since 2000, lower respiratory infections (LRIs), diarrhoeal diseases, and malaria remain among the leading causes of nonfatal and fatal disease burden for children under 5 years of age (under 5), primarily in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The spatial burden of each of these diseases has been estimated subnationally across SSA, yet no prior analyses have examined the pattern of their combined burden. Here we synthesise subnational estimates of the burden of LRIs, diarrhoea, and malaria in children under-5 from 2000 to 2017 for 43 sub-Saharan countries. Some units faced a relatively equal burden from each of the three diseases, while others had one or two dominant sources of unit-level burden, with no consistent pattern geographically across the entire subcontinent. Using a subnational counterfactual analysis, we show that nearly 300 million DALYs could have been averted since 2000 by raising all units to their national average. Our findings are directly relevant for decision-makers in determining which and targeting where the most appropriate interventions are for increasing child survival.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Commun

Publication Date





Child, Humans, Child, Preschool, Africa, Northern, Sub-Saharan African People