Health and nutrition
Child survival is at the very heart of what UNICEF does. The Young Child Survival and Development section is composed of four programmes crucial to UNICEF’s mission of supporting and improving the health of children and mothers:
East Asia and the Pacific is a region that has seen great economic progress in recent decades. More children than ever are surviving and developing into young adults ready to shape the futures of their countries. And yet, huge populations of children remain disadvantaged, unable to access critical health, education and protection services.
Staggering numbers of children are still dying from diarrhoea and pneumonia, which are easily prevented and treated, but are the two biggest killers of children in the region. Too many mothers suffer ill health or do not survive child birth. In most countries in the region, more than 30% of children are stunted, a condition that reflects long-term poor nutrition. In Timor-Leste, 25% suffer from wasting, the highest prevalence in the world.
As a whole, the region has made progress on reducing mortality among children under the age of five, but several countries are lagging behind. Maternal mortality rates are also improving. Still, maternal and neonatal deaths are unacceptably high, with the rate of maternal deaths in some countries alarmingly so. Delivering health services to those who have no access to them is paramount to UNICEF programming.
To improve maternal and neonatal survival rates, UNICEF is working to make health systems more efficient and better at delivering services to women and children. This includes improving access to and use of existing emergency obstetric care services, improving access to preventive and primary health care that covers early diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, HIV and AIDS, urinary tract infections and worm infestations. There is also a focus on preventing anaemia and improving women’s nutrition.
Immunization is essential to protecting children’s health and development and UNICEF regards immunization as an important priority in the region. UNICEF supports mass immunization campaigns against polio, measles and tetanus while seeking opportunities to integrate with other health services, such as the distribution of vitamin A supplements, de-worming or long-lasting insecticide impregnated nets. UNICEF works with governments to improve the quality and sustainability of routine immunization programmes:
Although many countries in the region have sustained high immunization coverage, the challenge is to reach the unreached. To do so is increasingly difficult and expensive. UNICEF has partnered with the World Health Organization to develop the Global Immunization Vision and Strategy that outlines a framework for countries to reach more children. UNICEF has worked on vaccine security and logistics issues with countries to ensure quality and coverage for children.
Good nutrition entails foods packed with essential vitamins and minerals. But diets in our region tend to rely heavily on nutrient-poor staples. Deficiencies in iron, vitamin A and iodine are high. Across the region, UNICEF:
UNICEF in focus
WHO WPRO and UNICEF EAPRO. WHO/UNICEF regional child survival strategy: Accelerated and sustained action towards MDG 4. 2006
UNICEF EAPRO. Strategy to improve child survival, growth and development for the most at-risk. 2005
UNICEF EAPRO. Strategy to reduce maternal deaths. 2003
UNICEF EAPRO. Strategy to reduce maternal and child undernutrition. 2003