Childhood Pneumonia Still Prevalent Despite Global Decline In Death Rates
November 13, 2012

Childhood Pneumonia Still Prevalent Despite Global Decline In Death Rates

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

In 2011, 1.3 million children lost their lives due to pneumonia. On average, the illness caused the deaths of one in five kids throughout the world. With these staggering statistics, pneumonia is considered the leading killer of children under five years of age.

The situation presents a dichotomy. Over the last decade, there has been an increase in the amount of money spent on preventing, protecting, and treating children from developing pneumonia; this has allowed for a decrease in the childhood mortality rates. However, even with this boost in financial support, many children in the developing world still lack access to healthcare facilities and proper treatment. In particular, the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) stated that 99 percent of deaths due to pneumonia occur in countries that are still developing.

"Pneumonia can be prevented and cured. Yet, for too long it has been the leading cause of global deaths among children. We know what to do, and we have made great progress — but we must do more. We must scale-up proven solutions and ensure they reach every child in need," noted the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a prepared statement.

In addition, a number of reports were recently released regarding statistics on childhood pneumonia. For example, the IVAC at Johns Hopkins University revealed the Pneumonia Progress Report, which detailed how 75 percent of all childhood pneumonia deaths happen in 15 countries. Members of the center believe that, with targeted efforts, the rates could be decreased.

As well, the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia (GAPP) from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nation Children´s Fund (UNICEF) issued a report in 2009 that stated that pneumonia deaths of children could be decreased by two-thirds with case management, breastfeeding and vaccinations. The WHO believes that there is still a need for health workers on the front lines, in areas like Africa and parts of Asia.

To combat these staggering numbers, the Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia has encouraged political leaders and fundraisers to look into possible interventions, such as increasing access to antibiotic treatments and vaccines as well as boosting sanitation practices by promoting public health education on the importance of hand washing, using clean cook stoves to decrease indoor air pollution, and exclusive breastfeeding. They believe that some of these practices can also assist in reducing childhood diarrhea, the second leading killer of kids.

In terms of awareness, the fourth annual World Pneumonia Day was celebrated on November 12. The GCACP worked with world leaders to promote increased efforts against the spread of childhood pneumonia. Countries like Argentina, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Haiti, India, Nigeria, Philippines, the United States and Zambia held events to publicize the issue. In particular, 15 cities in the United States held “Paint the Town Blue” awareness events on childhood pneumonia, a global initiative where buildings will turn blue. Buildings that participated included the Wrigley Building in Chicago, the Trump Towers SoHo in New York and the Pacific Science Center in Seattle.

“Pneumonia is the world´s leading killer of children under age five. It takes the life of one child every 20 seconds. World Pneumonia Day gives a chance to spotlight this disease and ways to prevent and treat it,” said Rosalynn Carter, a former U.S. First Lady and founder of Every Child by Two, in a video clip supporting the cause.