Child covering his eyes.

Stopping the Child Killers

In far too many places around the world, children are still dying from diarrhea and pneumonia – two diseases that are both preventable and curable. It is imperative that all children, especially those who are most at risk, have access to life-saving health-care services.

SEATTLE – In far too many places around the world, the biggest child killers are caused by the smallest of organisms – the viruses, bacteria, and single cell parasites that cause diarrhea and pneumonia. Given the monumental advances that have been made in public health – both diseases are preventable and curable – this is inexcusable. It is imperative that all children, especially those most at risk, have access to life-saving health-care services.

According to UNICEF, pneumonia and diarrhea kill a full one-quarter of the 5.9 million children under the age of five who die each year. And a new report from the International Vaccine Access Center shows that nearly three-quarters of pneumonia and diarrhea deaths occur in just 15 countries. In these countries and elsewhere, such deaths are most prevalent within the poorest and most marginalized communities.

While the figures do reflect progress in recent decades, the tragedy is that the improvement could have been much larger, had governments not consistently succumbed to the temptation to focus on only one or two interventions at a time. To end child deaths from these diseases once and for all, governments must commit to scaling up simultaneously the full suite of interventions identified by the World Health Organization and UNICEF two years ago, in their integrated Global Action Plan for Pneumonia and Diarrhea.

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