Say what you will about the world we live in, but for the most part, our seemingly big planet is turning into an international community. Every day in the news we see wars being waged in far off lands and examples of our fellow man harming one another, but that it is only part of it. For while man still wages and atrocities still happen, more and more, we see countries reaching out and helping one another. However, many might argue that this simply isn’t enough.
Every year millions and millions of children under the age of five die from preventable and treatable diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia.
If asked what the largest threat to children health across the world was, you might hear different answers. Some might say it was malaria; while other might think it was HIV/AIDS. And in that, they would be wrong.
According to the recently published 2016 Pneumonia and Diarrhea Progress Report, the two diseases caused 1.4 million child deaths last year and one-quarter of all deaths of children under the age of five. They exact their highest toll in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
In a shocking and disturbing statistic, researchers have found that just 15 countries account for 72% of childhood deaths from pneumonia and diarrhea.
According to the 2016 Pneumonia and Diarrhea Progress Report, on an international level, most countries have made improvements over the last year; improvement in some of the largest countries has been minimal, and a few countries have not made any progress at all.
So what can and needs to be done?
For starters, governments need to step up in their efforts to prevent pneumonia and diarrhea in the first place, and this starts by ensuring that parents have access to the right information needed to protect their children – but that’s not all.
Breastfeeding children in their first six months of life is one of the easiest ways to prevent pneumonia and diarrhea. Breast milk has all the nutrients babies need to grow, as well as antibodies that boost their immune systems, thereby protecting against illness and helping to accelerate recovery.
Also, improving the water, sanitation and hygiene in homes and for families in developing countries are vital in this fight. UNICEF reports that something as simple as handwashing with soap can cut rates of diarrhea and respiratory infections by more than 40% and 25%, respectively.
Pneumonia and diarrhea are two well documented and completely preventable diseases that have taken enough children too early. And while you might feel like a world away from where these problems are a reality for millions, you need only look online to find a charitable organization that is on the ground floor in imposing the lives of children and families the world over.