Pneumonia Deaths Drop
SIGNIFICANT DECLINES in child deaths from pneumonia prove that strategies to defeat the disease are working, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on the fifth World Pneumonia Day commemoration.
UNICEF, however, noted that much more is needed to stop hundreds of thousands of children from succumbing to this preventable illness each year.
In 2013, for the first time in over a decade,pneumonia was not the leading cause of death among children under five, coming second after pre-term birth complications, according to figures released recently by UNICEF.
Nonetheless, pneumonia death toll is still high, accounting for 15 percent of deaths, or 954,000 children per year, but deaths from the disease have declined by 44 percent since 2000.
'Pneumonia is still a very dangerous disease- it kills more children under five than HIV/AIDS, malaria, injuries and measles combined - and though the numbers are declining, with nearly 1 million deaths a year, there is no room for complacency,' said Dr Mickey Chopra, Head of UNICEF's Global Health Programmes.
'Poverty is the biggest risk factor, and that means our efforts need to reach every child, no matter how marginalised.'
Early diagnosis and treatment of pneumonia, and access to healthcare, will save lives, thus strategies must target low income communities.
The increased use of pneumonia vaccines, particularly in low income countries has led to progress against the disease, but inequities exist even in countries with wide coverage.
'Closing the treatment gap between the poor and the better off is crucial to bringing down preventable deaths from pneumonia,' Dr Chopra said. 'The more we focus on the causes and the known solutions, the faster we will bring this childhood scourge under control.'
UNICEF's Supply Division also put out a call to innovators for new, improved and more easily affordable respiratory rate timers to aid in the timely recognition and management of pneumonia.
According to UNICEF, the simple treatment method of trained community health workers giving sick children the antibiotic amoxicillin in a child-friendly tablet form, as part of an integrated case management programme at the community level has been successful and, therefore, called for the scaling up the availability of similar inexpensive medicines to help reduce the treatment gap, especially among hard-to-reach populations.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri