A detailed audit, part retrospective and part prospective, of deaths occurring in children admitted to the children's wards of the Port Moresby General Hospital over a 12-month period was made. 238 children died out of the 4898 admitted, an overall case fatality rate of 4.9%, with a monthly range of 3.7%-9.6%. The proportion of deaths approximated the proportion of admissions in each age group. 92% of the children had a weight of less than 80% of the standard weight for age and 30% weighed less than 60% of the standard weight for age. 24 (11%) of the deaths occurred within the first 6 hours of admission, 39 (17%) within the first 12 hours and 58 (26%) within the first 24 hours. 89 children (40%) died more than one week after admission. Pneumonia, meningitis, measles and septicaemia were the four leading certified causes of death and paediatric AIDS was the fifth. Less than half of the deceased children were appropriately immunized for their age. 27 deaths (12%) were assessed as preventable. 150 (67%) were classified as from treatable causes but unavoidable, 18 (8%) from untreatable causes, 22 (10%) of undetermined cause and 34 (15%) avoidable. The factors associated with avoidable deaths were delayed treatment (20 children), inadequate treatment (8 children), incorrect treatment (1 child) and others (5 children). Infant and child mortality could be reduced by general measures such as improving community nutrition and immunization status and improving care-seeking behaviour. Hospital-related measures to reduce mortality include improving the accuracy and effectiveness of triage and provision of adequate staffing levels and bed space. Periodic in-depth audit is necessary to assess quality of patient care, to identify problems and to point towards their solution. Accurate recordkeeping is essential for appropriate audit and planning.