New U.N. plan seeks higher targets for pneumonia and diarrhea treatment

The United Nations launched a global plan on Friday to save two million children under the age of five annually who would otherwise die from diarrhea and pneumonia in low income countries.

The U.N.'s World Health Organization launched the plan together with the U.N. Children's Fund to integrate strategies to battle both diarrhea and pneumonia. The plan is called the Integrated Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhea and it sets goals much higher than current levels for the treatment of both diseases.

For instance, the action plan calls for 90 percent of all children to have access to pneumonia antibiotics and diarrhea oral rehydration salts by 2025. If reached, the goal would represent a significant increase from the current levels of 31 percent of children who have access to antibiotics and 35 percent who have access to rehydration salts.

The action plan sets an interim target for at least half of all children under six months to be exclusively breastfed, which would be an 11 percent increase against last year's levels of 39 percent. Additionally, the plan sets the goal of all children having access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation, up from 89 percent and 63 percent, respectively.

The plan also looks to improve on progress already made in some countries by introducing new vaccines against rotavirus and pneumococcal bacteria, aiming for 90 percent coverage by the target date.

The overall goals for the plan by 2025 include a 75 percent reduction in incidence of severe diarrhea and pneumonia from 2010 levels among children under five, a virtual elimination of deaths from both diseases in the under-five age group and a 40 percent drop in the global number of children under five who are stunted.