A thorough approach from A to Z for child survival

Every year, an estimated 6.3 million children die before their fifth birthday. Each death is a singularly tragic event. In most cases, it is preventable. For almost half of them, malnutrition  ̶  including vitamin and mineral deficiencies  ̶  is an underlying cause.

For more than 20 years, MI has been part of the child survival revolution that has seen child mortality rates drop to almost half of where they were in 1990. But there is still much more to be done. This is why we focus so much of our efforts on child survival, working to increase the number of children who survive to five years of age as a result of receiving essential micronutrient interventions.

The way forward is clear. We must increase our investment in efforts to reach more children with established life-saving interventions. And we must roll out emerging solutions that offer a new opportunity to accelerate progress in saving children’s lives.

Helping children survive and thrive

The good news is that concerted local, national and global efforts are saving more lives each year.

Among the leading interventions credited with this progress is vitamin A supplementation, which has been shown to reduce mortality among children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years by up to 23%.

For almost two decades, MI has been a world leader in vitamin A supplementation, working with partners and governments to incorporate vitamin A into national child health programs around the world. Vitamin A supplementation has become one of the most effective large-scale child survival interventions today.

Today, with the support of the Government of Canada, through Global Affairs Canada (GAC), we provide about 75 per cent of the world’s need for vitamin A supplements.

In 2013 alone, together with our partners, we reached 180 million children with two doses of vitamin A.

While the life-saving effects of vitamin A have been long-proven, another micronutrient – zinc – is quickly emerging as an exciting new tool in the battle against childhood disease and death.

As a metal, it’s commonly used to make brass and batteries. But as a treatment for diarrhoea, zinc reduces diarrhoea mortality by 23% (WHO/UNICEF, 2013).

Given that 760,000 children under the age of five die each year due to dehydration, weakened immunity or malnutrition associated with diarrhoea, the results of zinc supplementation have great significance for global child survival. Additionally, as a dietary supplement combined with oral rehydration salts (ORS), zinc is helping children recover from diarrhoea faster, resist the disease for longer periods and have fewer episodes per year. And it costs less than 50 cents to treat an episode of diarrhoea.

As zinc supplementation has quickly grown in significance, so has MI’s programming to advocate for and support its implementation as a primary health intervention. While few countries have yet to implement programs at scale, we are now able to build on our experience in zinc supplementation in countries such as Senegal, Guatemala and India.

Having earned our reputation as committed funders, active partners and technical experts in micronutrient supplementation, we continue to put our moral obligation to save children’s lives into practice each and every day.