Children with immune systems weakened by other infections like HIV or by malnutrition, and those living in areas with high levels of air pollution and unsafe water, are at far greater risk. The disease can be prevented with vaccines, and easily treated with low-cost antibiotics if properly diagnosed. But tens of millions of children are still going unvaccinated and one in three with symptoms do not receive essential medical care. Children with severe cases of pneumonia may also require oxygen treatment, which is rarely available in the poorest countries to the children who need it.
Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, said:
“Every day, nearly 2,200 children under the age of five die from pneumonia, a curable and mostly preventable disease. Strong global commitment and increased investments are critical to the fight against this disease. Only through cost-effective protective, preventative and treatment interventions delivered to where children are will we be able to truly save millions of lives.”
Pneumonia is caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi, and leaves children fighting for breath as their lungs fill with pus and fluid. More children under the age of five died from the disease in 2018 than from any other. 437,000 children under five died due to diarrhoea and 272,000 to malaria
Viruses, bacteria, and fungi can all cause pneumonia thus washing your hands and your children’s hands frequently. No disease kills more children aged less than five years than pneumonia, not least in Pakistan where one-fifth of the population is in this age group. The estimated figures reflected in many Pakistani studies tells us that the [annual] incidence of ARI [acute respiratory infection] in Pakistani children aged less than five years is 4% in the community, a group constituting roughly 22% of the country’s population of 160 million. Taking this 4% figure, we can calculate that there are 15 million episodes of ARI every year among under-fives.
Preventing pneumonia in children is an essential component of the National Immunization Strategy to reduce child mortality. Immunization against Hib, pneumococcus, measles and whooping cough (pertussis) is the most effective way to prevent pneumonia. Pneumococcus is a germ that is responsible for causing most cases of severe pneumonia, and many cases of meningitis and blood stream infections in children in Pakistan. Infection by this germ is preventable by vaccine, which is given as a shot to infants and toddlers. It helps prevent pneumococcal disease, and also stops the disease from spreading from person to person. Three doses of this vaccine are given in the first year, preferably at 6 weeks, 10 weeks and 14 weeks of age, and the fourth dose is given at 15 months of age. If the vaccine is not given at above ages, it can be given later as well.