In a previous blog post, we discussed the general meanings of “Survive, Thrive, an Transform” in the context of the EWEC Global Strategy. When a woman faces barriers to these objectives during pregnancy or childbirth, her children are inevitably affected as well. So how can children's health in developing countries be improved? What are the goals when it comes to children?
Neonatal and under-five mortality rate (U5MR) still remains much too high, especially in WHO Eastern Mediterranean and African regions. Worldwide, 5.9 million children under 5 died in 2015, including 2.7 million that died within 28 days of birth. The UN’s current Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target for U5MR is no more than 25 deaths per 1000 live births in any country. Right now, 79 countries have yet to meet this goal.
The good news is that we know what works. More than half of the decline in U5MR since 2000 was achieved by addressing major causes of childhood deaths, including reducing measles, diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria. Moving forward, we also need to increase vaccination coverage, address environmental factors such as water, sanitation, and pollution, as well as bring down rates of malnutrition.
Surviving isn’t enough – children deserve the resources and support to thrive and live their happiest and productive lives. Unfortunately, risk factors such as poverty undernutrition, lack of education and violence often means that children's health in developing countries suffers. The Early Childhood Development (ECD) Lancet series found that 250 million children in low- and middle-income countries suffer from undernutrition and stunting, which can then lead to reduced cognitive and physical development, poor performance in school, and decreased ability to fight diseases. When these things happen, not only are individuals affected, but also future generations and society as a whole. It is estimated that a poor start to life can lead adults to lose almost a quarter of the average adult income per year and countries to lose twice their current GDP spendings on health and education.
Parents, family members, caregivers, and the community around them can all act as transformative influences on young children. Kids need a stable environment that promotes early childhood development, health and nutrition, protection from harm and violence, opportunities for learning, and affectionate interactions and relationships. While this seems like something that happens on the personal level, policymakers, too, can create national policies and legislations that promote these practices. Paid parental leave, health, nutrition, education, and social and environmental protection all contribute to a setting that’s prime for children to survive, thrive, and transform.
Dr. Daniel Kimani is a trained and licensed medical officer in Kenya, holding a Bachelor of Medicine & Surgery, and a post-graduate certificate on basic oncology training. Dr. Kimani is the founder of the Global Cancer Care and Research Institute, and is an expert in clinical colposcopy — a procedure to examine the cervix, vagina, and vulva.