LONDON – One child under the age of five dies every 39 seconds from one of the least suspected diseases. One every 39 seconds equals 2,215 childhood deaths a day, a staggering number. It is even more heartbreaking to realize that the annual childhood death rate from this illness is more than 800,000.The disease is pneumonia.
It is the number one infectious killer of children in the world. The death rate is highest among children under two years of age. More than 150,000 pneumonia-infected children die before they are a month old.
According to UNICEF, “Pneumonia is caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi, and leaves children fighting for breath as their lungs fill with pus and fluid,” yet pneumonia is both curable and preventable.
So, why is this happening?
Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children, has the answer to that question.
“This is a forgotten global epidemic that demands an urgent international response. Millions of children are dying for want of vaccines, affordable antibiotics, and routine oxygen treatment. The pneumonia crisis is a symptom of neglect and indefensible inequalities in access to health care.”
Even though Dr. Seth Berkley, head of the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) claims that
“We have made strong progress over the last decade, with millions of children in the world’s poorest countries now receiving the lifesaving pneumococcal vaccine,”
30 percent of the children exhibiting symptoms of pneumonia have no means of accessing adequate medical care.
In severe cases, antibiotics may not be sufficient. Patients in remote areas who require oxygen therapy are unlikely to find it available.
Nigeria, India, Pakistan, the DRC, and Ethiopia (each a country within the 10/40 window) account for more than 50 percent of childhood deaths from pneumonia.
If there is any good news, it is Dr. Berkley’s reference to having “made strong progress.” The under-five death rate declined by 54 percent between 2000 and 2018. Nonetheless, the fact that more than 800,000 children die from pneumonia each year should be all the motivation that governments, health agencies, and NGOs need to spur them on to successfully eradicate and prevent the spread of this baby-killer.
Pray for the helpless children who contract pneumonia. Pray for their healing. Pray for a failsafe, universal vaccination system to be developed and implemented soon.
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- Reuters, Pneumonia kills a child every 39 seconds, health agencies say
- UNICEF, A child dies of pneumonia every 39 seconds
- UNICEF, https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/one-child-dies-pneumonia-every-39-seconds-agencies-warn
- © UNICEF/UN0269314/Dejongh under UNICEF WeShare terms