Children’s Health: Key Issues

Communicable and Non-Communicable Diseases

The international community and donor priorities have targetted the prevention of HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria – which appear to have a disproportionate impact on children, youths and females.According to UN data, out of 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS worlwide, 11.8 million are between the ages of 11 and 24 years.However, it is important to note that despite these priorities in the international communiteis, communities often urgently need simple interventions to address pressing child health concerns – such as dysentry, diarrhea, and nutritional deficiencies, which impact long term human development, but are rooted in childhood. Infant mortality rates in developing countries are often linked to maternal health, neo-natal health and care received by women within the first few weeks of being born.

Nutrition and Malnutrition

Nutrition and malnutrition are crucial to children’s health, but often not subject to their control. One vulnerability that children face is that early childhood health, well being and development is governed by parents, guardians and very often the community.

In many parts of the world, especially in regions such as South Asia and China, there exists a phenomenon of “missing girls” whereby the systematic neglect of the health of female children often results in their mortality. This has skewed sex male to female sex ratios in many regions.
143--1 This is also linked to sex selective abortions, where families may choose not to have a female child because it is less economical than having a son. Neglect of the girl child often entails preventing access to health care, nutrition, or education. As such, linkages between child health and human rights is crucial – especially when these rights are considered as necessary for the expansion of basic human capabilities. Children – as a vulnerable and voiceless social group, cannot always advocate for their own needs and rights.

Children, Psychology and Mental Health/Well-being

Children are often vulnerable and powerless with regards to addressing their needs and concerns. They are particularly susceptible to mental health issues, as a result of poverty, neglect, drug use, the impact of HIV/AIDS, troubled home lives. The international donor community has yet to prioritize and recognize mental health concerns among children and youth in a manner that is culturally sensitive and implementable on the ground. Since mental health is not given much of a priority in the global health agenda in anycase, children’s psychological development f- rom the perspective of wellbeing and overall health – often remains overlooked. This is an important area of research, however, and relates inextricably to childhood development and rights.

Maternal Health and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights

Common sense dictates that the health of a child is inextricably linked to the health of his/her mother – before as well as immediately after birth. As such, the provision of sexual and reproductive health and rights, which have recently gained prominence worldwide, need to consider the needs and rights of children – as well as the mothers.

A healthy and safe childbirth is important not only to the health and wellbeing of children, but also their mothers. Maternal and infant mortality are both linked to this crucial time following child birth.

The prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (pMTCT), for instance, is a crucial intervention that protects the health of the child being born. A simple intervention involving a single dose of medication can protect a child from contracting HIV from his or her mother. This medication however, is still not widely available or used in developing countries

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