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Pneumonia and Diarrheal Disease

Pneumonia is the leading killer of children under five years. And while effective interventions to reduce these deaths are available, they reach too few children. To address this, MCSP supports and implements key prevention measures, including adequate nutrition, immunization, co-trimoxazole prophylaxis for HIV-positive children, and correct handwashing with soap. The Program also plays a key role in global advocacy, and assists countries in scaling up coverage of treatment by antibiotics.

Diarrheal disease—which is both preventable and treatable with simple and cost-effective interventions—ranks as the second cause of death for children under five. MCSP advocates globally for increased visibility of this often forgotten killer, and for the integration of diarrheal disease programs with other child health programs (including pneumonia, malaria, nutrition and newborn health initiatives).

The current treatment package for diarrhea was recommended in a 2004 World Health Organization and UNICEF joint statement and consists of a combination of both low-osmolarity oral rehydration salts (ORS) and zinc. This combined should go hand-in-hand with continued feeding of the child, including increased fluid intake and breastfeeding. Important preventive interventions include:

  • Increasing coverage of the rotavirus and measles vaccines;
  • Promoting exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and vitamin A supplementation; and
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene interventions (including handwashing with soap).

In 2013, USAID’s predecessor flagship Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP) provided technical assistance in the development of the integrated Global Action Plan for Pneumonia and Diarrhea (GAPPD), which details a roadmap of interventions that protect, prevent and treat childhood illnesses. MCSP continues to participate in the Diarrhea and Pneumonia Working Group, which supports treatment and scale-up in 10 high-burden countries.

At the country level, we continue to make zinc accessible by ensuring its classification as an over-the-counter medicine. In health facilities, MCHIP worked to ensure that oral rehydration therapy (ORT) corners were functioning with both supplies and trained health staff. MCHIP also contributed to creating and revising health worker job aids and treatment guidelines, and supported the introduction and expansion of integrated Community Case Management.

Kids in Afghanistan smiling
Photo: Ahmad Eklil/Jhpiego

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