Saturday, May 05, 2012

World health concerns

World-wide 1.7 million children die every year from a vaccine-preventable disease, which amounts to one life every 20 seconds. Vaccine-preventable diseases remain prevalent in the developing world. They cause or contribute to 20 to 35 percent of all deaths of children under the age of five while stunting the mental and physical development of countless others.

In northern Pakistan, one in ten children dies before the age of five from diseases such as polio, measles or hepatitis, despite the availability of vaccines. Many of the local people fear the potentially life-saving vaccines. Some understand that vaccines are safe, but overall, there is little demand by parents for vaccinations. Last month, the Pakistan government launched a major vaccination effort to vaccinate 34 million children.

"Some local imams have been preaching that vaccines are an attempt by the U.S. government to sterilise children,"
said Erfaan Hussein Babak, director of The Awakening project, which aims to promote vaccinations.

"For the first time in history, we have or will soon have vaccines to control many deadly diseases and improve the quality of life of every child on the planet," Peter Singer, director of the Sandra Rotman Centre said. "Paradoxically, the challenge now is to stimulate public demand for vaccinations."

Fifteen million babies, or more than one in 10 infants, are born prematurely each year. Over one million die soon after birth, or survive to face a lifetime of health complications, says a new report by the World Health Organisation.

"Being born too soon is an unrecognized killer. Preterm births account for almost half of all newborn deaths worldwide and are now the second leading cause of death in children under five, after pneumonia,"
Joy Lawn, co-editor of the report "...Ten years ago, I was working as a pediatrician in Ghana and it was very obvious every day…I was in charge of the baby nursery with about 11,000 births a year and there were babies dying every day of things that they did not need to die of."

Fifteen countries account for two-thirds of the world's preterm births, with India and China in the lead. Out of all live births, preterm births account for 11.1 percent, 60 percent of which occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. On average, 12 percent of preterm births occur in low-income countries compared to nine percent in high-income countries.

Christopher Howson
, co-editor of the report and head of Global Programs for March of Dimes, told IPS. "You take a baby that is less than 28 weeks, if the baby is born in a rich country, it has a 90 percent chance to live. If born in a poor country, it only has a 10 percent chance to live."

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