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Facts for Life



Foreword  •  Purpose  •  Structure  •  Essential Messages  •  Guide for Using Facts for Life   •  Glossary  •  For further information contact

Nearly 9 million children died in 2008 from preventable illnesses before reaching their fifth birthday – more than two thirds of them during the first year of life. Millions more survive only to face diminished lives, unable to develop to their full potential.

Five diseases – pneumonia, diarrhoea, 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 defence 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.

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.

Facts for Life provides information to help save, improve and protect children's lives, and should be shared widely with families, health workers, teachers, youth groups, women's groups, community organizations, government officials, employers, trade unions, media, and non-governmental and faith-based organizations.

Facts for Life is designed to educate those who have influence over the safety and wellbeing of children. Through simple messages, it aims to bring life-saving knowledge to every corner of the world.

Ann Veneman
Executive Director
United Nations Children's Fund
Dr. Margaret Chan
World Health Organization
Koïchiro Matsuura
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Thoraya Ahmed Obaid
Executive Director
United Nations Population Fund
Helen Clark
United Nations Development Programme
Michel Sidibé
Executive Director
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
Josette Sheeran
Executive Director
World Food Programme
Graeme Wheeler
Managing Director
The World Bank




Foreword  •  Purpose  •  Structure  •  Essential Messages  •  Guide for Using Facts for Life   •  Glossary  •  Contact

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