IRC Child Survival
Every year, 11 million children under the age of five die unnecessarily—an overwhelming majority due to preventable and treatable infectious diseases in rural and urban locations all over the world. In areas affected by war and conflict, the task of improving the health and nutrition of vulnerable children is even more challenging.
The International Rescue Committee combines best practices in child health care with on-the-ground expertise, ensuring that cutting edge scientific concepts are translated into reality in the field. The IRC focuses its efforts on improving the health and nutrition of children under five and reducing child and maternal mortality in areas where it is assisting people affected by war and conflict.
Working with the Rwandan Ministry of Health and a network of local community health workers, the IRC rolled out its first child survival program in Rwanda in 1999 focusing on nutrition, malaria control and safe motherhood. By 2004, what started in one health district now covers the entire Kibungo Province and provides services to 120,000 children and 130,000 women in childbearing age. The program has helped reduce the prevalence of malnutrition to 17% from an overwhelming 40% five years ago and has helped reduce the number of babies born underweight by as much as 70%.
The IRC also collaborated with Johns Hopkins University and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop a novel way of treating diarrhea. In 2004 the IRC became the first humanitarian organization to distribute zinc supplements to treat diarrhea and now uses the method to treat children in Chad, Sudan and Indonesia. USAID has since recognized IRC’s zinc treatment as a model program for other organizations seeking to use zinc as a way to treat diarrhea in a humanitarian setting.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, IRC provides health services to 26,000 children under the age of five and 34,000 women of childbearing age living in the South Kivu Province. Through the IRC’s programs, Congolese children under the age of five living in the region receive appropriate oral hydration when they have diarrhea and more children are sleeping under anti-malaria bed nets every night. With IRC’s continued campaign, caregivers who take care of the young children have also become educated of when to seek immediate medical help for their wards when the need arises.
The IRC is an active member of the CORE Group, a network of 44 international non-governmental organizations whose mission is to improve the health and well being of women and children in developing countries.