Safeguarding Children’s Health
A RECENT report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), The Progress of Nations, shows significant improvement in health conditions for children in many lands. Through the concerted efforts of governments and international organizations, mortality rates for children under five years of age have fallen in a number of countries. Nevertheless, The Progress of Nations also shows that each year millions more young lives could be spared by simple and inexpensive means, especially in developing countries. Parents in these lands and elsewhere may find the following recommendations in the report helpful.
Breast-feeding. “Breastfeeding is the best possible start towards good health and nutrition,” advises the report. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “over 1 million infant lives a year could be saved if all babies were exclusively breastfed for about the first six months.” Since hospitals and maternity units set a powerful example, UNICEF and WHO are promoting a “baby-friendly hospital initiative.” Their objective is to motivate hospitals to give mothers of newborns support and proper advice regarding breast-feeding.
Hygiene and clean water. “The toll of disease could be drastically reduced by safe water, by using latrines, by washing hands before handling food, and by preparing and storing food safely,” states the report. Though in many communities great effort is required to obtain enough of it, clean water is indispensable to child and family health.
Nutrition. Vitamin-A supplementation could prevent as many as three million children from dying each year, according to the report. The solution to the problem is available and affordable, it says, and may be realized by improving diets, fortifying foods, or distributing vitamin-A capsules. Distributing two-cent vitamin-A capsules periodically to young children is already proving effective in lands where vitamin-A deficiency is common. Also recommended are foods like papayas, mangoes, carrots, green leafy vegetables, and eggs.
Oral Rehydration Therapy. UNICEF says that half the annual child deaths caused by diarrhea could be prevented with the aid of inexpensive and easy-to-prepare mixtures of clean water, salt, and sugar or rice powder.* Parents should also continue to give the child food. Already, an estimated one million lives a year are being saved by these means.
For further information on safeguarding the health of your children, please see Awake! of April 8, 1995, pages 3-14.
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