Take Action to Save Bangladeshi Children from Pneumonia and Diarrhea

For Immediate Release

Monday, November 18, 2013

In honor of World Pneumonia Day and World Toilet Day, USAID reflects on the progress Bangladesh has made in protecting its children from pneumonia and diarrhea

By Paul Sabatine
Acting Mission Director

Since 1990, the average life expectancy has increased by 21 years, reaching an average of 70 years, and millions more children are living past their fifth birthday. For many around the world, leading healthy and happy lives has become a reality and this is a remarkable global achievement. Yet, in Bangladesh, too many children still die from pneumonia and diarrhea which, alongside drowning, are the main causes of death for children under the age of five. Globally, these two largely preventable diseases are the leading causes of child mortality, accounting for 29 percent of all child deaths.

During the past week, the United Nations commemorated World Pneumonia Day on November 12 and World Toilet Day on November 19.  In honor of those two days, I would like to take the opportunity to take stock of the progress Bangladesh has made in protecting its children from pneumonia and diarrhea.

I would also like to reflect on a key message of these observance days: that childhood deaths from pneumonia and diarrhea can be prevented. Visiting a health provider and taking antibiotics can effectively treat pneumonia. Oral rehydration solution is a simple and effective way to treat the symptoms of diarrhea and zinc tablets have proven to reduce the severity and duration of diarrheal episodes. These treatments can stop common illnesses from spiraling out of control and protect the lives of Bangladeshi children in every district, city, town and village throughout the country.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), launched the “Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhea,” which highlights the best practices for integrated approaches to protect, prevent and treat both diseases together. This plan outlines crucial elements needed to address diarrhea and pneumonia: nutrition, vaccines, access to safe water, sanitation, hand-washing, and better household air quality; and effective integrated treatment.

Coordinating approaches to fighting diarrhea and pneumonia will be far more effective and efficient, and provide better services to communities, families, and children. Bangladesh can save countless lives by taking action and moving forward with the critical recommendations of the Global Action Plan. Together, we can use this action plan to set national priorities and put the focus on these two leading killers of children. It’s time to demonstrate, document, and scale up comprehensive, integrated approaches to improving health.

We must continue to work together to ensure all Bangladeshis have healthy, empowered lives. Boys and girls treated for pneumonia or diarrhea have the potential to grow into healthy and productive men and women, poets and presidents, scientists and doctors, and responsible fathers and mothers. To realize this vision, boys and girls in Bangladesh, we must protect them from easily preventable diseases and conditions that rarely take a child’s life in wealthier countries.