As mentioned in the post, “UN Campaign Seeks to Give all Children a Shot at Life,” one in five children does not have access to vaccines that prevent deadly diseases, like measles, pneumonia, or diarrhea. Nonetheless, some 2.5 million children under the age of 5 die every year as the result of preventable infectious disease, mostly due to funding gaps.
According to according to a new report released by UNICEF, the lives of the world’s poorest children could be saved by simply introducing routine vaccination programs against the two biggest killers, diarrhea and pneumonia, off the list of preventable disease, which account for nearly one-third of the deaths among children under five globally. According to UNICEF, the report “identifies a tremendous opportunity to narrow the child survival gap both among and within countries by increasing commitment, attention and funding…more than 2 million children’s lives could be saved in the 75 countries with the highest mortality burden 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. Nearly 90 per cent of deaths from pneumonia and diarrhoea occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia” (UNICEF press release).
Currently less than one-third of children affected with pneumonia receive antibiotics. Oral rehydration salts, a traditional low-cost response for children with diarrhea, are also given to only one-third of suffering children in developing countries. Both of these results, while shockingly low, show a clear a failure of national and international bodies to ensure that simple and cost-effective child survival interventions are put into place. In addition to such simple life saving methods for sick children, there are simple and effective ways to safeguard babies from disease such as exclusive breastfeeding. Nonetheless, fewer than 40 percent of infants under six months of age in developing countries are exclusively breastfed, depriving them of critical health protections. Other life saving prevention for both diseases often overlap, such as adequate hand-washing; expanding access to safe drinking water and sanitation.
Therefore, as the report illustrates, the potential for saving children’s lives is huge if proven cost-effective interventions for pneumonia and diarrhea are increased and put into place to ensure that they reach the most disadvantaged children.