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Child survival

A girl in DPR Korea
Improving health and nutrition for children in DPR Korea

The Issues

More children than ever in the region are surviving their early years. Still, every year, an estimated 800,000 children die before reaching their fifth birthday, a majority from easily prevented and treatable diseases, such as pneumonia and diarrhoea. Millions more children risk lifelong disabilities because of malnutrition, injury and other persistent health threats. The situation underscores the lack of equitable improvement in maternal health and nutrition in our region.

  • Most deaths occur within the first few weeks of life. Despite overall progress in under-5 mortality, newborn deaths remain the biggest challenge. More than 40 per cent of all child deaths in the region occur during the neonatal period (the first month of life), and of them, half occur in the first 24 hours after birth. Causes include infections, birth trauma, birth asphyxia and complications of premature birth. 
  • Increased inequities affect children. Diarrhoea and respiratory infections are still major childhood killers despite the easy access to the tools that can prevent and treat them.  They represent a direct consequence of poverty – lack of safe water, poor sanitation and basic health services, and unsafe environmental conditions. Immunization coverage, although high nationally, misses the most vulnerable – the poor, remote and marginalized populations.
  • Undernutrition. More than a third of child deaths are attributable to undernutrition as an underlying cause. In our region, the problem is often not the lack of food but the lack of varied, nutritious diets that bolster a child’s immune system and inappropriate feeding practices. Five of the 24 countries in the world where 80 per cent of developing world’s stunted children live are in our region.  It is sobering to realize that more than a quarter of the population will not reach their full mental and physical potential due to malnutrition.

UNICEF in Action
UNICEF seeks to ensure that all children in our region survive, grow and develop by promoting the following practices along a continuum of care from birth through childhood:

  • Skilled attendant during pregnancy, delivery and the immediate post-partum period. 
  • Essential care of the newborn.
  • Early initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour after birth, exclusive breastfeeding through 6 months of age, and appropriate complementary feeding from 6 months of age. 
  • Micronutrient supplementation (vitamin A, iodine, iron and zinc for the management of diarrhoea).
  • Management of acute malnutrition at the community and health facility levels.
  • Immunization of children and mothers.
  • Integrated management of childhood illnesses, including pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria.
  • Use of insecticide-treated bed nets.
  • Advocacy for measures to prevent accidents and injuries.



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