Aid groups call for stronger action to stop kids dying from pneumonia
30 January 2020 at 4:44 pm
Last year pneumonia killed one child every 39 seconds
Ramping up efforts to fight pneumonia could prevent nearly 9 million child deaths in some of the world’s poorest countries, new analysis shows.
Modelling by Johns Hopkins University, released ahead of the first ever global forum on childhood pneumonia in Barcelona, found that scaling up pneumonia treatment and prevention services could save the lives of 3.2 million children under five.
The analysis said this would also create “a ripple effect” that would prevent 5.7 million children dying from other major childhood diseases.
Aid groups are using the research to call for stronger global efforts to fight the disease.
Henrietta Fore, the executive director of UNICEF, said if we are serious about saving the lives of children, we have to get serious about fighting pneumonia.
“As the current coronavirus outbreak shows, this means improving timely detection and prevention,” Fore said.
“It means making the right diagnosis and prescribing the right treatment. It also means addressing the major causes of pneumonia deaths like malnutrition, lack of access to vaccines and antibiotics, and tackling the more difficult challenge of air pollution.”
Pneumonia is the leading cause of death for children worldwide, killing 800,000 children last year – equal to one child every 39 seconds.
UNICEF said although some types of pneumonia can be prevented with vaccines, tens of millions of children remain unvaccinated.
On current trends, 6.3 million children under five could die from pneumonia over the next decade, with deaths likely to be highest in Nigeria (1.4 million), India (880,000), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (350,000).
A study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found that outdoor air pollution contributed to nearly one in five pneumonia deaths among young children worldwide.
Save the Children UK CEO Kevin Watkins said addressing this could save even more lives.
“The number of lives that could be saved is potentially far higher as the modelling did not take account of factors like availability of medical oxygen, or action to reduce levels of air pollution, a major risk factor for pneumonia,” Watkins said.
“These results show what is possible. It would be morally indefensible to stand and allow millions of children to continue to die for want of vaccines, affordable antibiotics and routine oxygen treatment.”
During this week’s global forum in Barcelona, governments from highly affected countries will commit to develop national strategies to reduce pneumonia deaths.