New action plan on killer diseases could save 2 million child lives a year


12 Apr 2013 | AU
  • New global action plan to eliminate the two main killer diseases of children - pneumonia and diarrhoea – launched by the World Health Organization and UNICEF.
  • UN states that universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene alongside vaccines and treatments, is critical in ending preventable child deaths.
  • Ending preventable pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths would save the lives of 2 million children a year.

Today, UNICEF and the WHO have launched a new action plan tackling for the first time the two biggest killer diseases of children under five – pneumonia and diarrhoea. The plan aims to end preventable childhood deaths from these diseases by 2025, which would save 2 million lives a year.

Adam Laidlaw, WaterAid Australia Chief Executive, said:

“60 million children around the world are born into homes without access to adequate sanitation every year and 24 million are born in homes without clean drinking water. A global endeavour to address pneumonia and diarrhoea and their causes is essential to stop children dying unnecessarily.”

No single intervention can control, prevent or treat either pneumonia or diarrhoea according to the Action Plan. The new approach calls for increased action and the combining of development programmes in areas that are proven to work, such as hand-washing, clean water, sanitation, vaccinations and breastfeeding.

“To end the unnecessary deaths of nearly 5,500 children a day from pneumonia and diarrhoea, a substantial shift is needed in how poverty reduction efforts are coordinated across aid agencies, donors and governments in developing countries. Aid programmes need to bring together different areas of work, such as access to drinking water, sanitation and health, to make them more effective,”

said Mr Laidlaw.

The new plan calls on governments and other stakeholders to prioritise investment in the poorest and least-served population groups. Nearly 90% of pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths in children currently occur in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Alongside dozens of development charities, WaterAid has signed a joint statement in support of the new Action Plan that declares:

”We can save countless lives by using an integrated approach to fighting disease, improving access to proven interventions and by prioritising efforts to reach the poorest and most marginalised children. As the latest data demonstrate, the GAPPD provides the most cost-effective approach and will help achieve the greatest impact in reducing child deaths.”

The statement has recommendations for developing country governments, businesses and donors.


A spokesperson is available on request, please contact:

Kirrily Johns: Communications Manager, WaterAid
Direct line: +61 (0)3 9001 8246
Email: [email protected]

The Global Action Plan on Pneumonia and Diarrhoea can be downloaded from here:
Password: GAPPD_501076

The joint NGO/CSO statement, organisations who have signed it and the press release can be found here:

WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to safe water and sanitation. The international organisation works in 27 countries across Africa, Asia and the Pacific region to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world’s poorest communities. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 17.5 million people with safe water and, since 2004, 12.9 million people with sanitation. For more information, visit

  • Around 2,000 children die every day from diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation.
  • 783 million people in the world live without safe water. This is roughly one in ten of the world's population.
  • 2.5 billion people live without sanitation; this is 39% of the world's population.
  • For every $1 invested in water and sanitation, an average of $4 is returned in increased productivity.