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Tuesday 3 May 2011


International Development

Child Health

The Petition of Staff and Pupils of Hackleton Church of England Primary School,

Declares that just over 8 million children die every year before their fifth birthday, mostly from preventable causes like diarrhoea and pneumonia; that ensuring that proven, cost-effective, preventative measures such as immunisation and breastfeeding are available at family and community level can save millions of these lives; that, where child health is prioritised, in countries such as Malawi, there are real and long-lasting results, showing that change is possible; and notes that the petitioners believe that global leaders must prioritise child health and end these unnecessary deaths.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for International Development to widen the Government’s approach on maternal and newborn health in the developing world to include child health.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Andrea Leadsom , Official Report, 23 March 2011; Vol. 525, c. 1052.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for International Development:

The UK Government are, and will remain, a strong supporter of efforts to improve child health.

We share the concerns of the Petitioners. It is unacceptable that more than 8 million children die every year before their fifth birthday, and that over 3.5 million of these deaths are babies who die within the first 28 days of life. It is also unacceptable that a child dies every 15 seconds from dirty water and poor sanitation.

The Department for International Development (DFID) tackles the direct causes of child mortality, including measles, malaria, diarrhoea, HIV and AIDS. Examples of DFID support include:

Over the past two years we have provided funding to help the Global Polio Eradication Initiative: vaccinate more than 400 million children using more than 1.2 billion doses of vaccine; improve the training of staff to carry out the vaccinations; and develop approaches to overcome the challenges faced in reaching children in the last polio-infected areas of the world.

We are also supporting the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), which since 2000 has immunised more than 280 million children saving over 5 million lives. Within this GAVI has helped prevent over 30,000 deaths from polio; over 1.2 million deaths from measles; and over 3 million deaths from Hepatitis B, reaching children in over 70 countries around the world.

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We have a new priority to improve the prevention and treatment of malaria which is the cause of one in five child deaths in Africa.

DFID recently launched two new Frameworks for Results, detailing plans to tackle malaria and prevent deaths during pregnancy and childbirth. Both publications can be found on our website: www.dfid.gov.uk. They will make an important contribution to achieving the Millennium Development Goal 4 (reduce child mortality) particularly through improving the survival chances of newborn babies.

The chances of a newborn baby dying remains stubbornly high. This is despite the achievement of significant reductions in infant and child deaths. The minutes and hours around childbirth is the time when the risk of death is greatest for women and babies, with around 2 million lives a year lost due to complications in labour and birth.

The health of newborns is inextricably linked to the health of their mothers. Interventions to improve maternal health and survival also improve newborn health and survival. These include: pre-birth care, skilled attendance at birth, access to emergency obstetric care when necessary, adequate nutrition, post-delivery and newborn care, education to improve health, breastfeeding, and improved sanitation, hygiene and water.

Malaria is one of the leading causes of avoidable childhood death worldwide. An estimated 781,000 people died as a result of malaria in 2009; 85% of those deaths were in children less than five years of age, and 91% occurred in Africa. Pregnant women are four times more likely to be affected by malaria than other adults and malaria contributes to maternal anaemia, putting both mother and child at risk. It exacerbates the health impact of under-nutrition. It can result in poor cognitive development and it contributes to school absenteeism across endemic countries.

One focus of the UK’s approach to combating malaria is to improve case management of fever by increasing access to and use of effective malaria diagnosis and treatment. Better diagnosis of fever provides the basis for both the appropriate treatment of malaria and non-malaria cases, particularly for childhood illnesses like respiratory infection and diarrhoeal disease.

In the Frameworks for Results, the UK sets out how we will:

save 250,000 newborn babies by 2015

support at least 2 million safe deliveries, ensuring long-lasting improvements in quality maternity services, particularly for the poorest 40% ; and

help halve malaria deaths in at least ten high burden countries by 2015.

The survival of mothers is important for their children’s survival to and beyond five, as well as their development. Recent DFID-supported evidence from Bangladesh shows that a child whose mother has died has a significantly lower chance of surviving to 10-years-old.

We are determined to deliver the commitments we have made in our Framework for Results. We will continue to support civil society and other partners who strive to improve child health and the wider realisation of children’s rights.