New Delhi (ISJ): Pneumonia and Diarrhea kills 4,36,000 children under the age of five in India annually, according to latest estimates of child mortality released by United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). India tops the chart of 15 countries that account for 75 per cent of global pneumonia and diarrhea deaths in 2012.
India and Nigeria, the countries with the two largest pneumonia and diarrhea disease burdens continue to have low coverage levels for prevention and treatment of the diseases, despite intervention by World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF under the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhea (GAPPD). The world body seeks to achieve the goal of ending preventable pneumonia and diarrhea mortality in children by 2025.
Interestingly, sub-Saharan countries like Angola, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania have achieved higher results and rank lower on the mortality scale. Closer to home, Pakistan and Afghanistan have bettered India?s mortality rate. Though efforts to slash child mortality worldwide achieved immense success, deaths of children under the age of five still surpassed six million in 2012 and among the major causes of deaths pneumonia and diarrhea collectively accounted for 1.7 million. Nearly 75 per cent of such deaths occur in just 15 countries, even though only half of world?s under-five population resides in these countries.
Evidences from research support the benefit of breastfeeding for child health and nutrition. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child's life is highly effective for preventing and reducing pneumonia and diarrhea mortality and morbidity. Of the 15 countries evaluated, breastfeeding was low in Angola (11 per cent) and high in Uganda (62 per cent). India did not even meet the 50 per cent GAPPD target for exclusive breastfeeding. Only 41 per cent of Indian mothers initiate early breastfeeding.
The report lists barriers like insufficient milk production, painful or difficult nursing, work-related impediments and lack of familial support for breastfeeding. UNICEF has called for enacting "baby-friendly" policies in fast-growing economies like India and China, where women are increasingly joining the work-force.