While knowledge of causes of deaths is important for health sector planning, little is known from conventional sources about the causes of deaths in Bangladesh. This is partly due to deficiencies in the registration system and partly because few deaths are attended by qualified physicians. The present study was undertaken to update the information available on causes of deaths among under-5-year-olds, taking advantage of advances in verbal autopsy methodology and of the national Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey conducted in 1993-94. About 25% of the deaths were associated with acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI) and about 20% with diarrhoea. Neonatal tetanus and measles remained important causes of death, and drowning was a major cause for 1-4-year-olds. Research and programmes to enable mothers to identify ALRI cases, particularly pneumonia, and to encourage timely and appropriate care-seeking and strengthening of ALRI case management at the primary care facilities are important priorities. While promotion of oral rehydration for watery diarrhoea and antibiotic treatment for dysentery should continue, broader preventive interventions including provision of safe water and sanitation, and improvements in personal hygiene require more attention. Further intensification of immunization programmes and innovative experimental interventions to reduce childhood from drowning should be designed and tested.