Kuni Tyessi in Abuja
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said Nigeria may lose two million children to pneumonia in the next decade if modalities are not put in place to curb the disease.
The UN body identified malnutrition, air pollution and lack of access to vaccines and antibiotics as the drivers of preventable deaths from pneumonia, which last year killed one child every three minutes in Nigeria
In a statement wednesday by its communications expert, Ms. Elaina Drakopoulos, the body said boosting efforts to fight pneumonia could avert over two million child deaths from pneumonia and other major diseases in Nigeria.
UNICEF said: “Forecasts show that 1.4 million children under the age of five could die from pneumonia over the next decade in Nigeria, on current trends – the highest number of any country in the world and more than 20 per cent of childhood deaths from pneumonia globally.
“However, an estimated 809,000 of these deaths would be averted by significantly scaling up services to prevent and treat pneumonia.
“Researchers also found boosting pneumonia services would create an additional ‘ripple effect’, preventing 1.2 million extra child deaths from other major childhood diseases at the same time.
“Interventions like improving nutrition, increasing vaccine coverage or boosting breastfeeding rates – key measures that reduce the risk of children dying from pneumonia would also stop thousands of child deaths from diseases like diarrhoea (580,000), meningitis (68,000), measles (55,000) and malaria (4,000).
“By 2030, that effect would be so large that pneumonia interventions alone would avert over two million predicted under-five child deaths in Nigeria from all causes combined, researchers said.”
Pneumonia is caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi and leaves children fighting for breath as their lungs are filled with pus and fluid.
The disease is the leading killer of children in Nigeria, causing 19 per cent of under-five deaths.