Injuries--unintentional and intentional--include a wide range of conditions such as road traffic injuries, falls, burns, poisonings, and assaults. Worldwide, unintentional injury is the fifth most common cause of death, responsible for 5.2% of the total mortality. Rates are declining in industrialized countries, for example, in the US from 72/100,000/year around 1900 to 40 in 1982 and 30 in 1988. African injury data are mainly based on hospital records, and few population-based incidence estimates have been made. This review concludes that in sub-Saharan Africa, injuries rank third behind diarrhoea and malaria at 40,000 episodes and 100 deaths per 100,000 population per year. Incidences are higher in males than in females, and the most common cause is fall, followed by road traffic injury, assault, burn and poisoning. Substantial reductions are possible through prevention programmes.