Infant and child health

Basic care for infants and children includes promoting and supporting early and exclusive breastfeeding (see indicator “Infant feeding” in Chapter 4), and identifying conditions requiring additional care and counselling on when to take an infant and young child to a health facility. There are several cost-effective preventive and curative services for leading causes of childhood morbidity and mortality. These comprise vitamin A supplementation, measles vaccination, oral rehydration therapy (ORT) for severe diarrhoea, and antibiotic treatment for acute respiratory infection (ARI) (Bhutta et al., 2013[14]).

As a safe and effective vaccine is available for measles, its coverage has been used to monitor the progress towards achieving the SDG target 3.2 to end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age by 2030. This vaccine is also considered a marker of access of children to health services.

Access to preventive care varies across Asia-Pacific as shown by the intake of vitamin A supplements (Figure 5.18) and vaccination coverage (see indicator “Childhood vaccination” in Chapter 7). Access to vitamin A supplementation is markedly low in the Solomon Islands at 37%, whereas DPR Korea and Pakistan have nearly complete coverage.

Less than one child in four with diarrhoea in the Philippines, India, Nepal, Viet Nam, Lao PDR and Pakistan, and less than one child in ten with diarrhoea in Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Mongolia, Cambodia and Solomon Islands received zinc supplement (Figure 5.19). Furthermore, less than half of children with diarrhoea received ORT in Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, India and Pakistan. The coverage was as high as 83% in Mongolia (Figure 5.20).

Access to appropriate medical care for children with ARI can also be improved in many countries in the region. Although almost three-quarters of children with symptoms are taken to a health facility, only less than two-thirds of them receive antibiotic treatment (Figure 5.21). There is a correlation between treatment coverage for diarrhoea and ARI. Antibiotic treatment for ARI is particularly low in Myanmar, the Philippines, and Pakistan, where the treatment for diarrhoea is also low. This suggests a need to expand access to care to treat leading causes of child mortality in these countries.

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