Each year, nearly 7 million children die before reaching their fifth birthdays, according to the World Health Organization. More than half of these deaths are caused by conditions that are preventable or treatable, including pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, measles, and malnutrition. To put it bluntly, 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.

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 that children have access to the basic rights—vaccinations, health care, education—that are key to a healthy, productive life.

Preventing the transmission of HIV to infants

Each day, about 1,000 infants are born with HIV, the vast majority of whom reside in poor countries. Most of these infants could be protected from HIV infection through effective HIV testing and treatment for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT). These interventions have nearly eliminated mother-to-child transmission in wealthy countries, UNAIDS reports.

In Haiti, PIH began offering PMTCT and HIV counseling to pregnant mothers in 1995, just one year after it became available in the United States. PIH’s HIV Equity Initiative has provided antiretroviral therapy (ART) free of charge for thousands of Haitian children living with HIV since 2000. HIV care for children is fully integrated into other basic health services, also provided at no cost. In 2005, PIH began implementing this model first in Rwanda and later Malawi and Lesotho.

Creating access to health and education

In Peru, PIH’s Socios En Salud Sucursal program serves children in the deeply impoverished communities of Carabayllo in northern Lima. The program targets both health and education for children living in the Carabayllo slums.

To improve health, PIH manages community health posts where staff promote health, prevent the spread of disease, and provide primary health care. These activities address issues of gender, equity, community participation, and social empowerment that have a significant effect on health. PIH’s education activities aim to organize the community to promote the rights of children and adolescents. PIH identifies community leaders who follow children in their education, providing support to families that helps address social barriers that prevent many children from completing their education.

In Haiti, PIH supports 39 community primary schools and 25 accelerated learning centers for children who had not previously been enrolled in primary school. In total, these schools educated about 8,000 students in 2011. These primary and secondary students have performed exceedingly well on national exams, achieving a 91 percent pass rate in 2012.

To improve attendance and achievement at schools throughout the rural Central Plateau district, PIH also provides hot lunches at 125 schools, reaching 18,000 students each day. Because Haiti’s school system requires that students wear closed-toe shoes to class, PIH partnered with TOMS Shoes to distribute more than 70,000 pairs of shoes to local school children from 2010 to 2012. All of these programs address key barriers to education for poor children to help break them out of the cycle of poverty and disease.

With many other child-centered programs in the poor communities where PIH works, we offer children the same essential rights and services that have virtually eliminated deaths from common childhood ailments in rich countries.