World Pneumonia Day: Remembering the forgotten killer

Today is World Pneumonia Day, a good reminder to us all that pneumonia is among the leading causes of death in children under 5, accounting for 1.3 million child deaths annually. It is ranked up there with other infectious diseases, such as diarrhea, malaria and measles, which cause approximately half of child deaths worldwide.

What’s more, 99 percent of child pneumonia deaths occur in developing countries. Pneumonia, like many other childhood diseases, can be easily prevented through immunizations, which is why ONE advocates for organizations like the GAVI Alliance. Since its launch in 2000, GAVI and its partners have supported the immunization of 370 million children, saving an estimated 5.5 million lives in the process.

In recent years, GAVI has taken the fight against pneumonia to even higher levels. Beginning in December 2010, GAVI initiated the rollout of the pneumococcal vaccine in developing countries, and has since reached 21 countries. The aim by 2015 is for GAVI and its partners to immunize 90 million children with the pneumococcal vaccine in 58 countries. Achieving this target will be a significant factor in reducing childhood deaths by two-thirds by 2015—the fourth Millennium Development Goal!

Still, there is so much work to be done. Last Friday, Amie Batson of USAID, Dr. Jane E. Miller of Population Services International (PSI) and singer/actress Mandy Moore came together for a conference call on the importance of raising the awareness of pneumonia as a leading cause of death among children under 5 in developing countries.

Organizations such as PSI have developed numerous strategies to combat the prevalence of pneumonia-related deaths, such as Integrated Case Management, which works with ministries of health to development and implement national plans to treat pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria and malnutrition in children.

Additionally, while answering a question about the role of community health workers, Batson highlighted their importance in communicating with mothers the importance of hand washing as a preventative measure for pneumonia and in urging mothers to take their sick children to health workers to determine the causes of these sicknesses.

HELP RAISE AWARENESS FOR PNEUMONIA

World Pneumonia Day is the time to raise awareness of the effects of pneumonia on children under 5. The Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia is targeting country leaders to increase their efforts and investments in combating the number of preventable child deaths. Their outreach is not limited to country leaders – everyone needs to actively raise awareness this World Pneumonia Day.

Tweeting a fact or stat from the Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia is an easy way to get involved on Monday. Cities across the nation are showing their support by “painting the town blue” an event organized by Best Shot Foundation, which calls upon major building and landmarks to be lit up with blue lights. These are just two innovative events that are being held on the 12th, to learn more ways to be involved on Monday visit the World Pneumonia Day website here.

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 -Mia Marshall, ONE policy team intern