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IN POINT OF FACT 1991 Jun; (76):1-3.This paper describes the serious effect of diarrheal and acute respiratory (ARI) disease upon children under 5 years old, and international efforts undertaken by the World Health Organization (WHO) to reduce such mortality. Combined, these diseases account for more then 1/2 of all deaths in this age group, and constitute the most serious threat to their health. WHO estimates for 1990 that diarrheal illnesses caused 3.2 million childhood deaths and that ARI caused 4.3 million. While some child deaths are due to measles and pertussis, the majority is caused by pneumonia and the consequences of diarrheal illnesses. These deaths could be readily averted through the timely, effective treatment of trained health workers with essential drugs. Immunization as well as improved nutrition, particularly through the practice of exclusive breast feeding of the child's 1st 4-6 months of life, are addition weapons potentially employed against child mortality. WHO programs for diarrhea and ARI control focus upon simplified treatment guidelines, training, communication messages, drug supplies, and evaluation methodology. Despite obstacles such as the marketing of useless and/or potentially dangerous anti-diarrheal drugs and cough and cold remedies, and inappropriate breastmilk substitutes and unnecessary foods, widespread progress in program development and implementation has been made over the past decade. Increased amounts of oral rehydration therapy and solutions are available and used, while many health workers have benefited from training programs.