Children represent the future, and ensuring their healthy growth and development ought to be a prime concern of all societies. Newborns are particularly vulnerable and children are vulnerable to malnutrition and infectious diseases, many of which can be effectively prevented or treated. From before birth through to young adulthood there are a range of health issues that affect our children. The Child Health topic covers many of those issues, from general childhood illnesses, eating and obesity, to accidents and injuries and particular stages of life, such as teenage independence.
One of the darkest characteristics of poverty is that is seems to prey on the vulnerable and defenceless. In low-income countries, one out of every 10 children dies before the age of five. In wealthier nations, this number is only one out of 143.
The risk of death is highest in the first month of life. Preterm birth, birth asphyxia and infections cause most newborn deaths. Health risks to newborns are minimized by:
- quality care during pregnancy;
- safe delivery by a skilled birth attendant; and
- strong neonatal care: immediate attention to breathing and warmth, hygienic cord and skin care, and early initiation of exclusive breastfeeding.
From one month to five years of age, the main causes of death are pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, measles and HIV. Malnutrition is estimated to contribute to more than one third of all child deaths.
- Pneumonia is the prime cause of death in children under five years of age. Nearly three-quarters of all cases occur in just 15 countries. Addressing the major risk factors – including malnutrition and indoor air pollution – is essential to preventing pneumonia, as are vaccination and
breastfeeding. Antibiotics and oxygen are vital tools for effectively managing the illness.
- Diarrhoeal diseases are a leading cause of sickness and death among children in developing countries. Breastfeeding helps prevent diarrhoea among young children. Treatment for sick children with Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) combined with zinc supplements is safe, cost-effective, and saves lives.
- One African child dies every 30 seconds from malaria. Insecticide-treated nets prevent transmission and increase child survival.
- Over 90% of children with HIV are infected through mother-to-child transmission, which can be prevented with antiretrovirals, as well as safer delivery and feeding practices.
- About 20 million children under five worldwide are severely malnourished, which leaves them more vulnerable to illness and early death.
B. The Targets
Target 4a: Reduce by two thirds the mortality rate among children under five
- Under-five mortality rate
- Infant mortality rate
- Proportion of 1 year-old children immunised against measles
C. Did You Know?
- In our world today nearly 11 million children under the age of 5 die in the world every year – well over 1,200 every hour most from easly preventable or treatable causes. (Source:Why do the Millennium Development Goals matter? Brochure)