AKIPRESS.COM - Pneumonia, an entirely preventable disease, kills more children than any other illness in the world, one child every 39 seconds. But although that statistic is well known, funding to improve survival rates continues to come up short, the UN and partners warned on Tuesday, World Pneumonia Day.
“For decades the leading killer of children has been a neglected disease and the world’s most vulnerable children have paid the price”, Leith Greenslade, Coordinator of a coalition to stop the disease, said in a joint statement with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other health leaders.
“It’s time for governments, UN and multilateral agencies, companies and NGOs, to join forces to fight pneumonia and protect these children”, she added.
In 2018 alone, pneumonia killed 800,000 children, and while deaths from other infectious diseases, including malaria, diarrhoea are falling, fatal pneumonia cases are declining at a much slower pace.
In 2000, 1,755,000 children under-five, died from the sickness, compared to 802,000 in 2018, while deaths to diarrhoea, once at 1,200,000, are now almost half of the current pneumonia death count.
Only “cost-effective, protective, preventative treatment” which are able to reach children where they are “will be able to truly save millions of lives”, UNICEF’s Henrietta Fore said.
Vaccine coverage in low-income countries is now higher than the global average, Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of the Vaccine Alliance said, however, “the fact that this preventable, treatable and easily diagnosed disease” is the world’s biggest killer of youth, “is frankly quite shocking.”
“We still have work to do to ensure every child has access to this lifesaver”, he added.
The organisations are urging governments in the worst-affected countries to development and implement pneumonia control and prevention strategies and call on richer nations and donors to boost immunisation coverage by lowering the cost of key vaccines.
In a joint call to action, the group of leading health and children’s organisations will host world leaders at the Global Forum on childhood Pneumonia in Barcelona, Spain, next January.
An estimated 18 million more health workers are needed by 2030 to prevent, diagnose and treat pneumonia as well as to reach the Sustainable Development Goal targets for Universal Health Coverage.