Pneumonia - No Longer A Silent Killer of Children

Alison Root — November 11, 2011 – 12:36 pm

Despite being a preventable and treatable disease, one child dies from pneumonia every 20 seconds, almost 99% of whom live in the developing world[1].  As a result of this immense inequity, UNICEF has called pneumonia the “forgotten killer of children”.

Tomorrow is the third World Pneumonia Day where we refuse to allow pneumonia to be forgotten as the leading killer of children under 5, and promise to prevent and treat the disease worldwide.

Thanks to institutions like the GAVI Alliance, life saving vaccines to prevent pneumonia are being rolled out to developing countries almost immediately after the vaccine was rolled out in the developed world.  Children in the developing world are the ones who need vaccinations the most in order to protect themselves against potentially deadly cases of pneumonia.

GAVI supports the roll out of the pneumococcal and Haemophilus influenzae B (Hib) vaccines, which can prevent 49% of pneumonia infections.[2] The pneumococcal vaccine is now being used in 15 developing countries and has already reached more than 3 million children with another 10 million expected to receive the vaccine in 2012.

Countries that increase basic immunization coverage with vaccines against measles and pertussis can also help prevent pneumonia cases.

Prevention of serious cases of pneumonia can save children who are most at risk - those that live too far from health facilities, those living with HIV or those with poor nutrition. Vaccines are powerful tools that can not only prevent children from dying of disease like pneumonia, but save years of suffering and costly hospitalization fees which can sink families deeper into poverty.

This World Pneumonia Day is a time to celebrate the enormous progress we have made through supporting institutions like GAVI, but reminds us that our work is not done. Preventative interventions like vaccines must reach every child, including the most vulnerable, as a part of a broader package of interventions which can save children’s lives like improving nutrition and sanitation, and breastfeeding in the first 6 months of life.

To find out more, check out this video.

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[1] World Health Organization. World health statistics 2006. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2006. Accessed September 6, 2009. AND Black R, Cousens S, Johnson H, et al. Global, regional, and national causes of child mortality in 2008: a systemic analysis. Lancet. 2010; 375:1969-87.

[2] Global Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Pneumonia (GAPP). World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund, 2009.