UN aims to end child deaths from diarrhoea, pneumonia

April 12, 2013

The United Nations launched a plan Friday aimed at all but eradicating childhood deaths from diarrhoea and pneumonia by 2025, in a bid to save the lives of some two million children every year.

The UN's agencies for health and children said they were joining forces with governments and other bodies to use existing low-cost methods to take on two diseases that are the leading killer of children under the age of five.

"We often call them silent killers because they don't make the news, (but they constitute) a daily emergency for children," Marilena Viviani, 's associate director, said in Geneva ahead of the launch.

and diarrhoea together account for 29 percent of all deaths in children under the age of five, killing some two million a year, UNICEF and the (WHO) said.

The diseases are closely linked to poverty, hitting children with the least access to clean water and sanitation and who are the least likely to have received vaccines that could protect them, said Viviani.

In 2011, around 711,000 cases of diarrhoea among under-fives proved fatal, a fall of 11.1 percent over the previous year, according to research published in The Lancet to coincide with the launch of the Global Action Plan.

There were some 1.25 million cases of in 2011, a decline of 10 percent over 2010.

Nearly 90 percent of pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths in children occur in sub-Saharan Africa and .

The plan aims to cut the number of childhood deaths from diarrhoea to just one in 1,000 and childhood deaths from pneumonia to less than three in 1,000 by 2025.

"And we believe that in a further 10 years we should be able to have no deaths from diarrhoea and pneumonia," said Elizabeth Mason, who heads WHO's maternal, newborn, division.

Richer countries have shown that a few things are key to reducing infections and deaths from both diseases, including breastfeeding, and a clean environment, as well as access to the right medicines and vaccines.

In addition to eradicating most childhood deaths from diarrhoea and pneumonia, the plan aims to slash the incidence of severe cases of both by 75 percent and to cut the number of children stunted by them by 40 percent by 2025, compared to 2010 figures.

To meet the targets, 90 percent of kids must have access to antibiotics for pneumonia and oral rehydration salts for diarrhoea, up from current levels of 31 and 35 percent respectively, the UN agencies said.

The plan also calls for at least half of children to be exclusively breastfed for six months, for improved sanitation and safe drinking water for all children and 90-percent coverage with new vaccines against pneumococcal bacteria and rotavirus.

The scheme will require $2.9 billion (2.2 billion euros), but Mason said the bill was not so daunting when spread among the some 75 countries with the highest death rates.

"For a relatively small amount, you can actually have a huge impact," she said.

Explore further: Pneumonia, diarrhea are top killers of kids: UNICEF

Related Stories

Pneumonia, diarrhea are top killers of kids: UNICEF

June 8, 2012
Pneumonia and diarrhea are among the top causes of childhood deaths around the world, particularly among the poor, said a report out Friday by the UN Children's Fund.

Zambia starts first-ever diarrhoea vaccines on children

January 23, 2012
Zambian health authorities on Monday started the country's first-ever vaccine campaign against diarrhoea on children under five years of age, in an attempt to reduce deaths arising from the disease.

Pneumonia remains the leading killer of children despite decline in global child deaths

November 12, 2012
Marking the fourth annual World Pneumonia Day, November 12th, world leaders and the Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia are calling for major efforts in the fight against childhood pneumonia, which remains the number ...

Philippines to vaccinate 700,000 babies

July 2, 2012
Philippine President Benigno Aquino said Monday the government would vaccinate 700,000 babies this year to protect them from a virus that causes diarrhoea, a killer disease ravaging poor communities.

Diarrhoea outbreak kills seven children in Zimbabwe

October 16, 2011
At least seven children have died from a suspected diarrhoea outbreak which has affected over 6,000 children in two towns in Zimbabwe over the past week, a state newspaper said Sunday.

Recommended for you

New insights into herpes virus could inform vaccine development

October 18, 2017
A team of scientists has discovered new insights into the mechanisms of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection, as well as two antibodies that block the virus' entry into cells. The findings, published in Proceedings of the National ...

Pair of discoveries illuminate new paths to flu and anthrax treatments

October 17, 2017
Two recent studies led by biologists at the University of California San Diego have set the research groundwork for new avenues to treat influenza and anthrax poisoning.

Portable 3-D scanner assesses patients with elephantiasis

October 17, 2017
An estimated 120 million people worldwide are infected with lymphatic filariasis, a parasitic, mosquito-borne disease that can cause major swelling and deformity of the legs, a condition known as elephantiasis. Health-care ...

New tools to combat kidney fibrosis

October 16, 2017
Interstitial fibrosis – excessive tissue scarring – contributes to chronic kidney disease, which is increasing in prevalence in the United States.

How hepatitis C hides in the body

October 13, 2017
The Hepatitis C (HCV) virus is a sly enemy to have in one's body. Not only does it manage to make itself invisible to the immune system by breaking down communication between the immune cells, it also builds secret virus ...

Largest study yet of malaria in Africa shows historical rates of infection

October 12, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with members from the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the University of Oxford and the University of KwaZulu-Natal has conducted the largest-ever study of the history of malaria ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.