Visceral leishmaniasis is an important public health problem in Libya, but its exact prevalence is not known. Prompted by the paucity of information in the literature relevant to Libyan children, we reviewed the records of 21 children treated at El-Fatah Children's Hospital, Benghazi between March 1982 and May 1990. Visceral leishmaniasis was diagnosed on the basis of the history, physical findings and confirmatory laboratory tests including examination of bone marrow. The duration of illness before seeking medical advice ranged from 3 months to 1.5 years. The commonest presenting features were fever, abdominal distension, anorexia with weight loss, hepatosplenomegaly and pallor. The consistent laboratory findings were anaemia with reticulocytosis and normal serum iron, neutropenia, thrombocytopenia, high ESR and hyperglobulinaemia. The bone marrow was positive for L. donovani in 86% of cases and the indirect haemagglutination test was positive in all patients. Bronchopneumonia was the most common complication and responded rapidly to antibiotics. All patients were treated with sodium stibogluconate 10 mg/kg/day. There were no major side-effects or complications of drug therapy. The relative paucity of cases and their late presentation may reflect a lack of awareness of the occurrence of visceral leishmaniasis by doctors in the community.