8 June 2012

More of the world's poorest children will survive if we focus on preventing and treating pneumonia and diarrhoea – the two biggest killers of children under the age of five.

That's according to a new UNICEF report, Pneumonia and diarrhoea: Tackling the deadliest diseases for the world’s poorest children.

Pneumonia and diarrhoea account for nearly a third of the deaths among children under five globally – or more than 2 million lives each year. And nearly 90 per cent of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. 

Audio: Why is diarrhoea so deadly?

Both diseases can be prevented with basic steps like increasing vaccine coverage, encouraging breastfeeding and handwashing with soap, and expanding access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

Video: Protecting the poorest children from the deadliest diseases in Rwanda

"We know what works against pneumonia and diarrhoea – the two illnesses that hit the poorest hardest", said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director.

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

But across developing countries, the poor are less likely than the wealthy to receive these life-saving interventions.

The report says that more than 2 million children’s lives could be saved in the 75 countries with the highest child mortality rate if all children under five got the health care that the wealthiest 20 per cent of children in those countries receive.  

Find out more

 
Vaccination is one way of tackling the most deadly diseases. A baby girl receives a 5-in-1 vaccine in Bo District, Sierra Leone. With just one dose, she'll be protected against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type b, a cause of pneumonia and meningitis.  © UNICEF/NYHQ2010-1018/Olivier Asselin
Vaccination is one way of tackling the most deadly diseases. A baby girl receives a 5-in-1 vaccine in Bo District, Sierra Leone. With just one dose, she'll be protected against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type b, a cause of pneumonia and meningitis. © UNICEF/NYHQ2010-1018/Olivier Asselin

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