Prevention and treatments for pneumonia and diarrhoea, the two biggest killers of children under the age of five, could save over two million lives a year, according to a new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The study identifies an opportunity to narrow the child survival gap among countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia where nearly 90% of deaths occur, by increasing commitment, attention and funding.
The prevention and treatments for both diseases include increasing vaccine coverage and disseminating oral rehydration salts to children with diarrhoea and antibiotics to children with bacterial pneumonia.
Vaccines such as Haemophilus influenza type b are already available, but low-income countries urgently need to introduce them into routine immunisation programmes, UNICEF warned.
UNICEF also encourages breastfeeding, hand-washing with soap and expanding access to safe drinking water and sanitation to prevent the deadly diseases.
UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake said: "We know what works against pneumonia and diarrhoea – the two illnesses that hit the poorest hardest."
"Scaling up simple interventions could overcome two of the biggest obstacles to increasing child survival and help give every child a fair chance to grow and thrive."
The report is being issued shortly before the launch of a major global initiative on child survival in Washington, US, in mid-June 2012.
The event will be convened by the governments of Ethiopia, India and the US, with 700 leaders and global experts from government, the private sector and civil society.