Each year, nearly 6 million children die before reaching their fifth birthday. More than half of these deaths are caused by conditions that are preventable or treatable, including pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, measles, and malnutrition. This means that every day 20,000 children are killed by conditions that could be prevented or cured with simple, affordable remedies—vaccinations, bed nets, food, clean drinking water, and antibiotics.
Meanwhile, about 600 children are infected with HIV each day, the vast majority of whom reside in poor countries. Most of these infants could be protected from infection through effective testing and treatment—as they are in wealthy countries, where mother-to-child transmission of HIV has been nearly eliminated.
PIH strives to eliminate this unnecessary suffering and death by providing free comprehensive health care for children and their families and by working to ensure all children have access to food and education—both foundations for a healthy, productive life.
We began offering antiretroviral treatment and HIV counseling to pregnant mothers in Haiti in 1995, just one year after treatment became available in the United States. Since 2000, our HIV Equity Initiative has provided free antiretrovirals for thousands of children as part of their basic health services. In 2005, we began implementing this model in Rwanda, then later in Malawi, Lesotho, and Russia.
In Haiti, we provide educational assistance to more than 9,400 children. We provide daily hot lunches to more than 9,000 students at 41 schools in the Central Plateau, encouraging them to attend classes and to perform better on a full stomach. We also partnered with TOMS to provide more than 80,000 pairs of shoes to local children, as the school system requires they wear closed-toed shoes.
We give a peanut-based, high-calorie food, called Nourimanba, to families with children suffering from severe malnutrition in Haiti. And in Malawi, we created a Nutrition Rehabilitation Unit at Neno District Hospital to address the same issue. We also help children in the district go to school when their families can’t afford the fees and supplies necessary to attend.
In rural Chiapas, Mexico, we’ve found an innovative way to battle chronic malnutrition, which affects 44 percent of children. Through a partnership with global nonprofit Heifer International, we deliver “packages” of 15 hens and a rooster to families with a malnourished child under 5 years old. The hens produce eggs, a valuable source of protein that the family can eat or sell to supplement their income from coffee farming.
And in Peru, we manage remote community health posts, or botiquines, where staff provide primary care and offer educational workshops on a range of health topics, such as nutrition, sanitation, and the spread of disease.
Our health educators visit families with young children at risk of developmental delays and teach caregivers how to promote age-appropriate behaviors. We also support a local community center where teenagers from impoverished neighborhoods come for after-school activities.