infectious diseases
Out of the eight Millennium Development Goals agreed upon by the U.N., three of them are dedicated to resolving serious health issues: child and maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. Despite progress made in each of these goals over the past 14 years, reducing the child mortality rate has proven to be one of the most difficult goals to achieve.

Every year, more than six million children die before they reach their fifth birthday due to preventable infectious diseases according to the U.N. In a recent report, USAID revealed that the following three diseases are the greatest contributors to that statistic:

1. Pneumonia is the cause of approximately 17 percent of deaths in children under the age of five. Especially among infants, pneumonia is a serious lung infection. Pneumonia causes more deaths in children than AIDS, malaria, and measles combined according to UNICEF.

2. Diarrhea is the second most deadly condition for children under five, causing nine percent of deaths. Compared to adults, children are particularly susceptible to diarrhea because a greater proportion of their bodyweight is made up of water. Even though it is such a dangerous condition for children, only 44 percent of children in developing countries suffering with diarrhea actually receive treatment according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

3. Malaria closely follows diarrhea, causing about seven percent of all child deaths. Even though malaria is easily spread through a mosquito bite, this disease can be just as easily prevented through insecticide-treated mosquito nets and effective antibiotics. Although 1.1 million deaths caused by malaria have been averted since the start of the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals in 2000, malaria is still a major health issue in developing countries.

Pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria together account for about a third of all child deaths globally. The symptoms and effects of all of these diseases can become severe if the infected person is malnourished or does not receive the proper necessary treatment. As a result, these three diseases are all the more rampant in developing countries.

Similarly to the U.N.’s goal to reduce the child mortality rate by two-thirds, staff members of both WHO and UNICEF worked together to create the Global Action Plan for Pneumonia and Diarrhea (GAPPD). This integrated plan seeks to end child deaths caused by these two preventable diseases by 2025. The GAPPD will also combine the practices for  treating both pneumonia and diarrhea since the causes and treatment for these two diseases are inter-related.

Global poverty is directly related to the spread of infectious diseases in developing countries. This is why The Borgen Project along with so many other organizations work to decrease the multi-layered issue of poverty across the globe.

– Meghan Orner

Sources: Daily Times, WebMDWorld Health Organization, World Health Organization
Photo: UNICEF