HA NOI — The child survival gap within and between countries can be narrowed if proven and cost-effective interventions for pneumonia and diarrhoea are scaled up to reach the most disadvantaged children, according to a new report from UNICEF.
|A teacher instructs her pupils to wash their hands as one of ways to prevent diarrhoea at the Viet Nam-Bulgaria Kindergarten in Ha Noi. — VNA/VNS Photo Quy Trung
The report, Pneumonia and diarrhoea: Tackling the deadliest diseases for the world's poorest children, focuses on the two diseases as two primary killers of children under the age of five.
"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," said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director.
In Viet Nam, as many as 7 per cent of children under five had diarrhoea in the past two weeks. More than a half of the children with diarrhoea received oral rehydration salts (ORS), and 70 per cent received ORS or homemade treatment.
Meanwhile, over 3 per cent of children age 0-59 months were reported to have had symptoms of pneumonia during the last two weeks. Of these children, 73 per cent were taken to an appropriate healthcare provider, and 68 per cent received antibiotics for suspected pneumonia.
A simple and effective way to safeguard babies from disease is exclusive breastfeeding. Yet less than one in five infants younger than six months of age in the country are exclusively breastfed, depriving them of this critical protection.
Limited access to decent sanitation also continues to put millions of children at risk of contracting diarrhoeal diseases. In Viet Nam, an estimated 6.5 per cent of the population resort to open defecation and close to half of the population in rural areas do not use sanitation facilities.
In addition, only 70 per cent of poorest households in Viet Nam have a handwashing place where water and soap is available in their homes, while close to 98 per cent of the richest households have a handwashing place available.
"Child deaths from pneumonia and diarrhoea can be significantly reduced by tackling these problems and focusing efforts on the poorest communities," said Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF Viet Nam Representative.
"Through this, the tremendous progress in reducing the number of child deaths each year in Viet Nam can be accelerated, saving even more lives."
Luu Thi My Thuc, a doctor at the National Hospital of Paediatrics, said changeable weather recently made children suffering from respiratory diseases increased.
On peak days, each doctor must examine nearly 100 children per day whereas on normal days he/she examine about 20 only.
"Parents let their children stay in rooms with air conditioners thus the children cannot adapt to hot weather when they get out of the rooms," she said.
As many as 80 per cent of children having examines for respiratory diseases must be hospitalised for pneumonia.
The country's mortality rates among children under five decreased dramatically from 51 per 1,000 births in 1990 to 23 per 1,000 births in 2010. Pneumonia and diarrhea was accounted for 12 per cent and 10 per cent of the under-5 deaths, respectively. — VNS