This study was carried out to evaluate the trends in cause-specific mortality and the impact of child-survival programmes in Morocco. Two national surveys on causes and circumstances of child deaths were conducted in Morocco in 1988 and 1998 (ECCD-1 and ECCD-2 respectively). These surveys were based on a representative sample of deaths of children aged less than five years (432 and 866 respectively). Causes of death were assessed by verbal autopsy and were validated on a subsample of 94 cases. Data on causes of deaths were matched with death rates from demographic surveys (Enquête Nationale Démographique à Passages Répétés and Demographic and Health Survey) to compute cause-specific death rates. Morocco underwent a dramatic mortality decline since independence, and the decline in mortality among children aged less than five years was particularly rapid over the 1988-1997 period, at an average rate of -6% a year, and faster for children (aged 1-4 year(s)) than for infants. The decline in mortality varied markedly by causes of death and was most pronounced for causes due to vaccine-preventable diseases, such as neonatal tetanus, measles, whooping cough, tuberculosis, for diarrhoeal diseases and malnutrition, and for selected infectious diseases. However, mortality due to acute lower respiratory infection (ALRI) outside the neonatal period did not change significantly as was the case for some neonatal conditions (birth trauma and prematurity) and for accidents. The decline in cause-specific mortality could be attributed to the success of public-health programmes: the Expanded Programme on Immunization, the management of diarrhoeal diseases and malnutrition, and the use of antibiotics for selected infectious diseases. It is likely that improvements in living conditions, child-feeding practices, hygiene, and sanitation also contributed to the decline in mortality, although these could not explain the magnitude of the changes for target diseases. In contrast, the ALRI programme, which started after 1997, could not have any effect yet, and conditions of delivery and care of the newborn improved only marginally over the study period.