New Internationalist

The Facts

Issue 194

new internationalist
issue 194 - April 1989

How to help children - The FACTS


In the last 24 hours about 40,000 children died - over 80 per cent
of them from preventable diseases like tetanus, measles, whooping cough,
diarrhea, acute respiratory infections or malaria. Such deaths are often
associated with malnutrition. Every year there are around 14 million
child deaths in the Third World - mainly of children under five.1

FOOD FIRST
In South Asia there are 50 million undernourished children. In Latin America there are 25 million. A quarter of a million children go blind each year for want of a 10-cent vitamin A capsule or a daily handful of green vegetables.1 Between 1980 and 1983, levels of malnutrition rocketed amongst under-six year-olds in Peru from 4l% to 68%; Ghana saw pre-school malnutrition swell from 35% to 54% between 1980 and 1984; and in Botswana child malnutrition increased from 25% to 31% between 1982 and 1984. Malnutrition makes small children vulnerable to disease.2

PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN UNDER FIVE SUFFERING MALNUTRITION
[image, unknown]


RESPECT THE BREAST
As a baby suckles, breast-milk changes its constitution to ensure that the infant receives exactly the right amount of nutrients. After birth the mother's breasts produce a yellowish fluid called colostrum. This contains protective proteins and anti-bodies which give babies an increased resistance to diarrhea and other diseases. Breast-feeding also prevents more births than all other forms of birth control put together, because it inhibits menstruation. This increases the spacing between births and gives small children a better chance of survival.3


BEAT THE BOTTLE
[image, unknown] Manufacturing companies are persuading millions of poor Third World mothers to abandon breast-feeding in favour of artificial milk. In Chile only 35% of babies up to three months old are exclusively breast-fed.4 And Pakistan buys an estimated 4.5 million infant feeding-bottles annually.5 In the Third World around 10 million cases of infant malnutrition and diarrhea result every year from mothers ceasing to breast-feed.6 And in poor areas of the Third World, bottle-fed babies are twice as likely to die as breast-fed ones.7

INFANT MORTALITY RATES IN POOR COUNTRIES
WHERE MOTHERS STOP BREAST-FEEDING EARLY

[image, unknown]

Infant Mortality 1986 (per thousand)4

Percentage of mothers breast-feeding
Average 1980-19861

For 3 months

For 6 months

For 12 months

Somalia

255

92

78

54

Guinea

255

100

70

40

Niger

233

65

30

15

Uganda

224

85

70

20

Yemen, Dem.

204

80

60

55

Bolivia

179

93

91

45

Brazil

160

59

19

5

Honduras

112

48

28

24

Iraq

98

76

45

19


NURTURE MOTHERS
Approximately half a million Third World women die of maternal causes every year leaving behind one million motherless children. In Africa there are almost 700 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births and in South Asia there are over 500 - compare with 10 in industrialized countries. One quarter of these deaths are the result of inadequate time lapses between babies. Another quarter result from illegal abortions which could have been avoided by the provision of contraceptive services.1 Around 59% of all pregnant women in Third World countries are anaemic.

[image, unknown]


INTRODUCE IMMUNIZATION
Every minute eight under-five year-olds die in the Third World because they haven't been vaccinated.4 During the mid-1970'S less than five per cent of Third World children were immunized and nearly five million children died annually from measles, tetanus, whooping cough, diphtheria, tuberculosis and polio - millions more were permanently disabled. Nowadays half of all Third World babies are vaccinated against measles and over 55% are immunized against the other five major killer diseases. Vaccinations save at least 1.5 million children every year. The incidence of polio - which used to cripple one child in 200 - has been reduced by 25%.1


[image, unknown]
ENCOURAGE EDUCATION
Acute respiratory infections kill between two and three million children a year. But if parents recognize the danger signs they can get help. And knowledge about hygiene helps prevent diseases like tetanus. This can arise from unclean birth conditions and kills around 800,000 new-borns every year.3 Diarrhea kills around five million infants annually and is spread by germs entering the mouth - often from unwashed hands. Educating mothers can prevent such deaths. Children are less likely to die or suffer malnutrition if their mothers have completed primary education.


DEFEAT DEHYDRATION
[image, unknown] Dehydration from diarrhea has killed around one hundred and fifty million children since 1949 - more than the combined civilian and military deaths of both world wars. It still kills almost 10,000 children - daily. But 70%1 of these deaths could be prevented through the use of oral re-hydration therapy - sugar, salt and water solution in the right quantities. The use of this therapy trebled between 1983 and 19852 and today saves roughly one million children's lives a year.1


WORK FOR WATER
Around 80% of all diseases including diarrhea are caused by bad water.10 Since 1980, clean water has been made available to an additional 700 million people - and sanitation to another 480 million.1 But provision still lags behind in rural areas - and in countries like Chile the provision of sanitation and clean water supplies have declined amongst the poor.4

WATER SUPPLY
Percentage of population with access to safe water,
in urban and rural areas of developing countries (excluding China), 1970-85

[image, unknown]

SANITATION
Percentage of population with access
to adequate sanitation in urban and rural
areas of developing countries (excluding China), 1970-85

[image, unknown]

1 The State of the World's Children, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Oxford University Press, 1989.
2 Adjustment With A Human Face (Volume 1), UNICEF, Clarendon Press, 1987.
3 The Politics of Breastfeeding, Gabrielle Palmer, Pandora Press, 1988.
4 The State of the World's Children, UNICEF, Oxford University Press, 1988.
5 Children's Rights, Defence for Children International, 1986.
6 UNICEF NEWS, Issue 106, 1980.
7 New Scientist, 19 February, 1987.
8 The State of the World's Children, UNICEF, Oxford University Press, 1987.
9 Water, Sanitation, Health - for All?, Anil Agarwal, James Kimondo, Gloria Moreno and Jon Tinker, Earthscan, 1981.

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