Basic health steps could save over 2 million children

A new report published by UNICEF has revealed that diarrhoea and pneumonia account for almost one third of under five deaths globally each year, claiming almost 2 million lives.

Basic health steps could save 2 million children

by Louise-Anne Geddes, Mindful Mum, 8th June 2012

The report, ‘Pneumonia and diarrhoea: Tackling the deadliest diseases for the world’s poorest children’ focuses on the ‘huge potential’ to narrow the child survival gap between the richest and the poorest by focusing on pneumonia and diarrhoea.  Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director said:

“We know what works against pneumonia and diarrhoea – the two illnesses that hit the poorest hardest.  Scaling up simple interventions could overcome two of the biggest obstacles to increasing child survival, help give every child a fair chance to grow and thrive.”

Global Initiative

The report is being published before the launch of a global initiative on child survival in Washington, D.C. on 14-15 June, which will be convened by the Governments of the Ethiopia, India and the United States. Over 700 leaders and experts from government, the private sector and civil society are expected to attend.  More than 2 million children’s lives could be saved in the 75 countries with the highest mortality rate if each country’s entire population of children under five years of age received the coverage already achieved by the wealthiest 20 per cent in those countries.

Prevention and treatment

UNICEF says that the prevention and treatments for both diseases often overlap, and include basic steps including:

  • an increasing vaccine coverage
  • Encouraging breastfeeding and hand washing with soap
  • Expanding access to safe drinking water and sanitation

Pneumonia treatment is not currently at an acceptable level, with less than one-third of affected children receiving antibiotics. Oral rehydration salts for children with diarrhoea are used by only one-third of sick children in developing countries.  One of the most effective ways to safeguard babies from disease is exclusive breastfeeding, but currently less than 40% of babies under 6 months in developing countries are exclusively breastfed.

Source:  UNICEF, ‘Pneumonia and diarrhoea: Tackling the deadliest diseases for the world’s poorest children’, 8th June 2012

Photography: Unicef Sverige @Flickr

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