The effect of Zn, as an adjunct to antibiotics, on the treatment of severe pneumonia in young children is still under debate; therefore, we performed a meta-analysis to evaluate the therapeutic role of Zn for severe pneumonia in children younger than 5 years. PubMed, Cochrane library and Embase databases were systematically searched from inception until October 2015 for randomised-controlled trials (RCT) that assessed the effect of Zn as an adjunct to antibiotics for severe pneumonia. Random-effects model was used for calculating the pooled estimates, and intention-to-treat principle was also applied. Nine RCT involving 2926 children were included. Overall, the pooled results showed that adjunct treatment with Zn failed to reduce the time to recovery from severe pneumonia (hazard ratios (HR)=1·04; 95 % CI 0·90, 1·19; I
2=39 %; P=0·58), hospital length of stay (HR=1·04; 95 % CI 0·83, 1·33; I
2=57 %; P=0·74), treatment failure (relative risk (RR)=0·95; 95 % CI 0·79, 1·14; I
2=20 %; P=0·58) or change of antibiotics (RR=1·07; 95 % CI 0·79, 1·45; I
2=44 %; P=0·67). In addition, continuous outcomes were consistent while meta-analysed with standard mean difference, and all outcomes remained stable in intention-to-treat analysis. No significant differences were observed in the two groups between death rate, adverse events or recovery times of severe pneumonia indicators. Our results suggested that adjunct treatment with Zn failed to benefit young children in the treatment of severe pneumonia. Considering the clinical heterogeneity, baseline characteristics of children, definition of severe pneumonia and Zn supplement way should be taken into consideration in future research. This study was registered at PRESPERO as CRD42015019798.