Child health


Health technician Bouchara Akdariss checks in with a patient at the district hospital in Ouellesebougou, Mali in November  2012. ©UNICEF/Bindra

Health technician Bouchara Akdariss checks in with a patient at the district hospital in Ouellesebougou, Mali in November 2012. ©UNICEF/Bindra

 The UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities singled out three essential, overlooked commodities that can treat and address the leading causes of mortality for children under five years old:

  • Oral rehydration salts (ORS) is a sodium and glucose solution widely proven to prevent deadly dehydration in children with acute diarrhoea.
  • Zinc is a vital micronutrient that helps reduce the severity and duration of diarrhoea and can help prevent future bouts.
  • Amoxicillin is an effective, low-cost, widely used antibiotic that is proven to save the lives of children with pneumonia.

With appropriate case management, amoxicillin dispersible tablets (DT) can reduce deaths from pneumonia by 70 percent.

When used together, oral rehydration salts and zinc can prevent more than 90 percent of child deaths from diarrhea.

 Pooling expertise on child health

The Child Health Technical Resource Team  – or Diarrhea and Pneumonia Working Group has been advancing the UN Commission’s recommendations from 2012 to 2016, working to increase access to and improve the use of these commodities.  The expertise of the TRT members as well as the knowledge resources they have developed during this period are captured in the Life-Saving Commodities Practitioners’ Network. Many of the group’s resources are available here.

Progress to date

Increase the availability of high-quality, affordable zinc, ORS, and amoxicillin DT: Child Health TRT partners have facilitated introduction of more than 10 new zinc and ORS products through direct engagement with local manufacturers in Africa. Six global manufacturers of amoxicillin DT have also been recommended by WHO’s Expert Review Panel. Additional tools developed by the TRT to support further improvements in commodity availability include a regional market assessment for Eastern and Southern Africa and demand forecast for amoxicillin DT, a UNICEF Pneumonia Diagnostics report, and an updated list of zinc manufacturers.

Generate demand among caregivers and providers: The TRT developed a comprehensive advocacy package for amoxicillin DT, including new global recommendations and clinical guidance for treatment of childhood pneumonia. Free, adaptable tools zinc and ORS tools have been developed for healthcare providers to promote correct treatment for diarrhea and pneumonia (available at, and and have been adapted for use in several countries—including Uganda, and Nigeria, and DRC. providers in 3 countries. An advocacy brief about the newly developed Every Breath Counts campaign for pneumonia and amoxicillin DT  has also been disseminated widely to NGOs, ministries, and other stakeholders.

Establish a mechanism to track progress: Based on the latest evidence and with consultative input from experts, the TRT developed a list of common Performance Indicators for tracking progress against diarrhea and pneumonia treatment scale-up and guidance for data collection.

In addition, the Child Health TRT developed a new report, Progress Over a Decade of Zinc and ORS Scale-up: Best Practices and Lessons Learned, which outlines a framework for implementation and consolidates lessons from a range of partners and countries in scaling up access to and use of diarrhea treatment.

Topic Experts

  • Nancy Goh
  • Mark Young
  • Hayalnesh Tarekegn
  • Jane Briggs
  • Tedbabe Degefie Hailegebriel
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