High child mortality from infections

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High child mortality due to avoidable infections

Child mortality is a major problem especially in the third world countries of Africa but also in Asia. Although the death rate of children under the age of five for some diseases was reduced, in 2010 7.6 million children died worldwide. United Nations (UN) scientists calculated that infectious diseases are responsible for two thirds of deaths in children under the age of five.

Pneumonia most often leads to death Pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria and other infectious diseases are very rarely fatal in industrialized countries. In developing countries, pneumonia and complications from premature birth are the leading causes of death in children under the age of five. With better medical care, such infectious diseases and complications could be successfully treated in most cases. The UN scientists report in "The Lancet" that many infections can be avoided.

Li Liu of the Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group of the World Health Organization (WHO) and colleagues as well as employees of the child support organization Unicef ​​analyzed data on child mortality from 193 countries. They found that more than three million babies mostly died in the first month after birth, mostly due to complications in premature birth. According to scientists, the most common cause of death for somewhat older children was pneumonia from diarrhea and malaria. About half of the deaths affected children from Africa, in which 73 percent were preventable infectious diseases. In Southeast Asia complications were the primary cause of death during the first month of life.

Infant mortality rate to decrease by two thirds In 2006 the UN set a target to reduce the under-five child mortality rate by two thirds between 1990 and 2015. However, this goal no longer seems achievable in the given period. In Africa, only the numbers of AIDS, malaria, tetanus and measles have dropped significantly. Overall, child mortality worldwide has fallen by 26 percent since 2000, the scientists report. The advances in pneumonia, diarrhea and measles were particularly great. However, these advances would not be enough to reduce child mortality by two thirds overall.

In the coming years, more measures and life-saving interventions for the health of newborns, toddlers and mothers, especially in the heavily affected regions, must be carried out, the scientists explain.

Reducing child mortality with vitamin A British and Pakistani scientists reported last August in the British Medical Journal that vitamin A could save the lives of countless children in developing and emerging countries.

In a comprehensive study, the scientists analyzed the data from 43 studies on the effects of vitamin A. More than 200,000 children between the ages of six months and five years were involved. The scientists led by Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta from the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi (Pakistan) came to the conclusion that the mortality rate of children in developing and emerging countries could be reduced by 24 percent by taking vitamin A supplements.

Vitamin A is a vital vitamin that is not produced by the body itself. In industrialized countries, people take this nutrient in with food. In developing countries, the scarce food supply and famines lead to a vitamin A deficiency in humans. This manifests itself in various health impairments, ranging from dry skin, visual problems, hair loss and night blindness to an increased susceptibility to infection to anemia, heart disease and an increased risk of cancer. In addition, impairments to fertility are a possible consequence of the lack of vitamins. In addition, growth disorders are relatively common in children who do not get enough vitamin A.

According to Professor Bhutta, the results of the study are so clear that the use of vitamin A supplements in the relevant regions should begin immediately. In addition, the food supplements are inexpensive. (ag)

Read on:
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Symptoms of an EHEC infection
9,000 preventable infant deaths
Vitamin A could save hundreds of thousands of children

Picture: UK

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