UNICEF Wants Govt to Do More in Tackling Pneumonia

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*As Nigeria leads in pneumonia child deaths with 162,000

Kuni Tyessi in Abuja

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has lamented the negligence of federal, state and local governments in their activities concerning pneumonia and its consequences in the lives of children under five.

As a result of this, in a statement made available by UNICEF, the acting representative in Nigeria, Pernille Ironside, said just five countries were responsible for more than half of child pneumonia deaths after Nigeria leading with 162,000 deaths.

Others are India with 127,000, Pakistan 58,000, the Democratic Republic of Congo 40,000, and Ethiopia 32,000.

He said increased investment was critical to the fight against this disease as “Only through cost-effective, protective, preventative and treatment interventions delivered to where children are – including especially the most vulnerable and hardest-to-reach – will we be able to save hundreds of thousands of lives in Nigeria.”

Emphasising that the narrative must change as the number of deaths were unacceptable, Ironside stated that the biggest risk factors for child pneumonia deaths in Nigeria were malnutrition, indoor air pollution from use of solid fuels, and outdoor air pollution.

“Pneumonia is a deadly disease and takes so many children’s lives – even though this is mostly preventable. And yet, this killer disease has been largely forgotten on the global and national health agendas. We can and must change this.

Governments in the worst-affected countries should develop and implement Pneumonia Control Strategies to reduce child pneumonia deaths; and to improve access to primary health care as part of a wider strategy for universal health coverage;

“Nigerian children made up the highest number of those who died, with an estimated 162,000 deaths in 2018 – 443 deaths per day, or 18 every hour.

“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.

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 statement added that pneumonia claims the lives of more than 800,000 children under the age of five last year globally, or one child every 39 seconds, according to a new analysis.