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Top ten causes of deaths in low-income countries 2016

The number one cause of death among low-income countries worldwide in 2016 was lower respiratory infections, followed by diarrhoeal diseases. The death rate from lower respiratory infections was 75.8 deaths per 100,000 people. While the death rate from diarrhoeal disease was around 58.2 per 100,000 people. Many low-income countries suffer from health issues not seen in high-income countries, including infectious disease, malnutrition and neonatal deaths, to name a few.

Low-income countries worldwide

Low-income countries are defined as those with per gross national incomes (GNI) per capita of less than 996 U.S. dollars. A majority of the world’s low-income countries are located in sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia. Some of the lowest-income countries as of 2017 include South Sudan, Burundi and Malawi. Low-income countries have different health problems that lead to worse health outcomes. For example, Sierra Leone, the Central African Republic and Chad have some of the lowest life expectancies on the planet.

Health issues in low-income countries

Low-income countries also tend to have higher rates of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases as a consequence of poor health infrastructure and a lack of qualified health workers. Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa have some of the highest rates of new HIV infections in recent years. Likewise, tuberculosis, a treatable condition that affects the respiratory system, has high incident rates in Lesotho, South Africa and the Philippines. Other health issues can be affected by the income of a country as well, including maternal and infant mortality. In 2017, the Central African Republic had one of the highest rates of infant mortality rates in the world.

Leading 10 causes of death in low-income countries worldwide in 2016

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Release date

May 2018



Survey time period


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