Worldwide, the number of deaths of children under five has decreased dramatically. However, 16,000 children under the age of five are still dying each day. Of the nearly six million children who didn’t live to see their fifth birthday, almost one million died on their first day of life.
Disparities in child survival remain high between developed and developing countries. A child born in sub-Saharan Africa is 14 times more likely to pass away before his or her fifth birthday than one born in the U.S.1 Globally, the major causes of death in children under five include pneumonia, diarrheal diseases, preterm birth complications, birth asphyxia, and malaria. Many of these deaths could be prevented with affordable, low-technology interventions, including antibiotics, zinc treatment for diarrheal diseases, oral rehydration solution, and antimalarials.
USAID’s Health Research Program increases disease prevention and improves diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of illness, accelerates introduction of improved drug regimens, and advances understanding of causes and risk factors of pneumonia and diarrhea. The Health Research Program is advancing use of integrated community case management of childhood illness (ICCM) and Verbal Autopsy and Social Autopsy Studies (VASA).
This community care strategy extends case management of childhood illness beyond health facilities so more children have access to lifesaving treatments. Community health workers receive training for diagnosis and treatment of key childhood illnesses and in identifying children in need of immediate referral. Recent research suggests that the this model can increase health coverage for sick children living in remote locations.
Verbal Autopsy and Social Autopsy Studies (VASA) employs a qualitative methodology to find out the causes of death when no medical records exist. With support from USAID and UNICEF, faculty from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health provided technical support to implement a national VASA study in Nigeria. Data on the biological causes and social and behavioral determinants of these deaths are vital to the Government of Nigeria’s efforts to develop effective interventions. Better information about causes of death could improve the accuracy to global mortality estimates.
To learn more about how the Health Research Program works to improve child health, please visit our project pages. You can also find more information about USAID’s overall efforts to improve child health here.