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UNICEF, WHO Launch Plan to Tackle Sanitation and Health

Unicef WHO12 April 2013: The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a global plan to combat diarrhoea and pneumonia, which are among the leading killers of children under five years old. The plan also aims to increase the percentage of children with access to improved sanitation and drinking water by nearly 30%.

The Integrated Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea sets an annual target of saving two million lives per year. By 2025, the Plan aims to achieve: a 75% reduction in severe diarrhoea and pneumonia incidents among children under five, from 2010 levels; and a 40% reduction in children under five who are stunted globally.

Mickey Chopra, UNICEF, stressed that the plan addresses inequity in health interventions among children in middle and low income countries. He said ensuring coverage of essential health interventions in the 75 countries with the highest death rates will prevent deaths and help to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Nearly 90% of child deaths from diarrhoea and pneumonia are in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, according to WHO.

Under the Plan, children will receive vaccines to protect them from diarrhoea and pneumonia, as well as improved access to health services and medicines, including oral re-hydration salts for diarrhea and antibiotics for pneumonia. The plan also recognizes the importance of a clean environment and good nutrition in reducing diseases that lead to infections and death.

Elizabeth Mason, UNICEF, explained that experience in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Malawi, Pakistan and Tanzania shows the benefits of jointly approaching diarrhoea and pneumonia rather than addressing them in parallel. She added that integrating pneumonia and diarrhea strategies “makes good health sense and good economic sense to integrate.” [UN Press Release] [WHO Press Release]