Each year more than six million children under the age of five die of preventable causes. Nearly two million of these deaths are attributable to just three causes: pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria. These deaths can be prevented through early recognition and delivery of low-cost interventions such as appropriate medicines and rehydration solutions.
But such interventions often don’t reach the most excluded children. Children in rural locations and hard to reach areas, children in crowded urban slums, children in nomadic and pastoralist communities, children in communities affected by conflict and children in areas where cultural barriers do not allow their mothers to seek healthcare – all are at risk of dying from pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria simply because they can’t access healthcare facilities. These children are excluded from basic healthcare simply because of who they are or where they live.
By training and equipping Community Health Workers and Community Health Volunteers, like Elisa Matsimbe in Mozambique, Save the Children is ensuring that children can be diagnosed and treated in their own communities without the need to travel long distances and with difficulty to a healthcare facility.
The use of Community Health Workers is part of a programming approach called Integrated Community Case Management of Childhood Illness (iCCM), aimed at improving access to essential treatment services for children suffering from these common childhood illnesses. The World Health Organization and UNICEF have recognised the importance of iCCM in delivering life-saving care to the ‘hard to reach’ and are encouraging countries throughout the world to adopt the approach.
Save the Children has played a central role in the development and roll-out of iCCM around the world which has contributed significantly to the reduction of child deaths over the last 15 years. In Nicaragua, for example, rates of mortality due to pneumonia, diarrhoea, and dysentery have dropped by more than half in project sites in rural and hard to reach communities where we have trained and equipped Community Health Workers.
However, six million children still die of preventable causes each year. We need to bring this number down to zero. Save the Children is committed to reaching every last child and ensuring they have the opportunity to survive, learn and be protected.