Young Child Survival and Development
Despite significant progress in reducing neonatal and underfive mortality, there are more than a million neonatal deaths and more than 600,000 underfive deaths per year in South Asia. Most of these deaths are caused by easily preventable and treatable illnesses such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, measles and malaria. With 38 percent of underfive children who are stunted, South Asia bears about 40 percent of the global burden of child stunting. Conflict and HIV/AIDS are other major causes of child deaths in the region with an estimated 140,000 children from the age of 0-14 to be living with the disease (according to 2006 estimates). Most child deaths occur in underserved rural, as opposed to urban areas.
Many of these lives could be saved through existing low-cost, low-technology and high impact interventions such as vaccines, antibiotics, micronutrient supplementation, insecticide-treated bednets, improved breastfeeding practices and the adoption of safe hygiene practices, which can prevent unnecessary maternal and child deaths and reduce undernutrition.
Although access to safe water and basic sanitation, the foundations of healthy living and prerequisites for reducing child mortality, have improved dramatically in South Asia since 1990, the number of people not using a toilet in South Asia is still huge with 65 percent of the world's open defecators living in this region.
Millions of South Asian children have not been registered at birth, and lacking proof of identity, age and existence, are routinely shut out of schools and hospitals. If mothers do not attend prenatal or antenatal clinics, their children’s growth goes unmonitored and basic needs remain unmet. Without birth registration governments and other organisations lack accurate figures on which to plan for public services.
By packaging services and implementing at scale, high impact and evidence-based maternal, newborn and child survival interventions, millions of lives can be saved. By ensuring that all children have access to basic education and by focusing on children marginalized by poverty, HIV/AIDS, conflict and discrimination, the cycle of poverty that keeps children on the brink of survival, can be broken.