The Progress of Nations

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 The time to sow
  
 Data briefs: Progress and disparity
   

Health care vital in stopping ARI


Too few parents in the developing world seek professional health care when a child has an acute respiratory infection (ARI) – despite the high risks associated with ARI – according to data from recent surveys.

In eight countries – Bangladesh, Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Haiti, Mali, Niger and Togo – the situation is particularly worrisome. In those countries, only up to a third of children who had had ARI within two weeks of the survey had been seen by a doctor or other health care provider. Overall, in 18 of the 29 countries surveyed, fewer than half of the children with ARI were taken to a health care provider.

The surveys showed that children in eastern and southern African countries were somewhat better off than those in West Africa, as more than half of those with ARI were taken to health care providers, compared with fewer than a third of children in West African countries.

ARI is a leading cause of mortality in young children, killing nearly 2 million children under the age of five in developing countries every year. Of crucial importance in preventing these deaths is the fact that when a child develops ARI, he or she needs to be seen by a health care provider. Whether or not this happens depends on a number of variables, including whether family members can recognize the signs of ARI – a cough accompanied by rapid breathing – and know to seek expert care. Other factors include whether good care and drugs are easily available and accessible and whether women’s status prevents children from receiving the professional health care they need.

An analysis of survey results shows that educated mothers are more likely to seek professional health care when a child has ARI than are mothers with no education. In Cameroon, for example, children whose mothers are educated are three to four times more likely to be seen by a health provider than are children whose mothers are not educated.

Where the lucky few are treated
% of children with ARI taken to a health care provider*
Chad 19
Mali 22
Niger 26
Togo 26
Haiti 27
Benin 32
Bangladesh 33
Cameroon 33
Eritrea 37
Guatemala 37
Madagascar 37
Côte d’Ivoire 39
Mozambique 39
Central African Rep. 41
Bolivia 43
Malawi 46
Dominican Rep. 48
Colombia 49
Zimbabwe 52
Kenya 57
Nicaragua 58
Uganda 61
Comoros 62
Egypt 62
Indonesia 69
Viet Nam 69
Tanzania 70
Zambia 71
Jordan 76

*Within two weeks of the survey date.
Source: DHS (1994-1999).
UNICEF is working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners to improve home and community health care for children as part of the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) strategy.
  
 
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