Health

Unicef: Tackling diarrhoea and pneumonia saves 2m lives

  • 8 June 2012
  • From the section Health
A young child being vaccinated
Image caption Unicef wants countries to focus on treating diarrhoea and pneumonia

Two million of the world's poorest children could be saved by introducing routine vaccination programmes against diarrhoea and pneumonia, says Unicef.

It says focusing on these diseases would narrow the survival gap between the richest and poorest children.

Pneumonia and diarrhoea account for one-third of all global deaths among children under five.

Unicef's report, in advance of a child-survival initiative, calls for better access to vaccines and antibiotics.

Anthony Lake, its executive director, said it was a question of commitment and funding.

"We know what works against pneumonia and diarrhoea - the two illnesses that hit the poorest hardest," he said.

"Scaling up simple interventions could overcome two of the biggest obstacles to increasing child survival and help give every child a fair chance to grow and thrive."

New vaccines available

Nearly 90 per cent of deaths from pneumonia and diarrhoea occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

The report says that more than two million children's lives could be saved in the 75 countries with the highest death rate if the poorest children received the same care and treatment as the wealthiest 20% in those countries.

New vaccines against the major causes of pneumonia and diarrhoea are already available.

While most low-income countries have introduced the Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) vaccine and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines, they urgently need to introduce them into routine immunisation programmes, the report said.

The prevention and treatments for both diseases include increasing vaccine coverage, encouraging breastfeeding, hand-washing with soap and expanding access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

Giving oral rehydration salts to children with diarrhoea and antibiotics to children with bacterial pneumonia are also basic steps to combat the diseases, it says.

More on this story

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites