AIM:Knowledge of the spectrum and frequencies of pediatric emergencies presenting to an emergency department (ED) of individual developing countries is vital in optimizing the quality of care delivered locally. METHODS:A prospective 6 wk review of all pediatric (< 18 y) attendees to an urban ED was done, with patient age, presenting complaints, diagnoses, time of arrival and disposition recorded. RESULTS:Complete data were available on 1172 patients, with an age range of 4 d to 18 y (mean +/- SD 6.9 +/- 5.6 y); 43% were aged < or = 4 y. The main presenting complaints were injuries (26.9%), fever (24%) and breathing difficulties (16.6%). The most common diagnosis was minor trauma (24.2%), with soft-tissue injuries predominating (80.6%). The other diagnoses were asthma (12.6%), upper respiratory infections (12.1%), other infections (12.1%) and gastroenteritis (11.8%). Equal proportions of patients were seen throughout the day. 25% of patients were admitted. Young age (< 1 y); presence of past medical history, general practitioner referrals, diagnosis of bronchiolitis and pneumonia were significantly associated with risk of admission. CONCLUSION:A wide spectrum of paediatric illnesses was seen in the ED, with an overrepresentation of young children. This supports the decision to have either a separate pediatric ED or paediatric residents on the staff. The training curricula should emphasize the management of pediatric trauma, infections and asthma. Alternatively, developing guidelines for the five most common presenting complaints would account for 82% of all attendees and could be directed towards all staff on the ED.