By Confidente Reporter
OVERCROWDING, poverty, poor hygiene, as well as inadequate nutrition and healthcare, have been the leading causes of diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and measles among African children, including Namibia, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has revealed.
The organisation also pointed out in a statement released last week that access to immunisation has led to a dramatic decrease in the deaths of children under five, while also bringing the world closer to eradicating polio.
Between 2000 and 2015, deaths of children under five, due to measles, declined by 85 percent, and those due to neonatal tetanus by 83 percent, UNICEF said.
There was also a 47 percent reduction in pneumonia deaths and 57 percent reduction in diarrhoea deaths, also attributed to vaccines.
“In addition to children living in rural communities, where access to services is limited, more and more children living in overcrowded cities and slum dwellings are also missing out on vital vaccinations, UNICEF said.
“Inequalities persist between rich and poor children. In countries where 80 percent of the world’s under-five child deaths occur, over half of the poorest children are not fully vaccinated. Globally, the poorest children are nearly twice as likely to die before the age of five.”
UNICEF Chief of Immunisation, Dr Robin Nandy, said that all children, no matter where they live or what their circumstances are, have the right to survive and thrive, safe from deadly diseases.
“Since 1990, immunisation has been a major reason for the substantial drop in child mortality, but despite this progress, 1.5 million children still die from vaccine preventable diseases every year.”
UNICEF, the lead procurement agency for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, procured 2.5 billion doses of vaccines for children in nearly 100 countries in 2016, reaching almost half of the world’s children under the age of five. The figures, released during World Immunisation Week, commemorated 24 to 30 April, make UNICEF the largest buyer of vaccines for children in the world.
Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the three remaining polio-endemic countries, each received more doses of vaccines than any other nations, with almost 450 million doses of vaccines procured for children in Nigeria, 395 million for Pakistan and over 150 million for Afghanistan. Yet, an estimated 19.4 million children around the world still miss out on full vaccinations every year.
Around two-thirds of all unvaccinated children live in conflict-affected countries. Weak health systems, poverty and social inequities also mean that one in five children under five are still not reached with life-saving vaccines. By 2030, an estimated one in four people will live in urban poor communities, mainly in Africa and Asia, meaning the focus and investment of immunisation services must be tailored to the specific needs of these communities and children.
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