Every 35 Seconds, a Child Dies from Pneumonia

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Aisha Muhammadu Buhari
Aisha Nuhari

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EVERY Breath Counts, a global campaign addressing pneumonia, the single biggest child-killer in the world, was launched on Sunday, January 31, by the UNICEF and other global partners. The campaign has been initiated in order to raise awareness around the burden of pneumonia and to galvanise the world to eliminate this preventable and treatable disease of the poor and marginalised children of the world.

According to reports, pneumonia kills nearly 1 million children under the age of five globally every year. More children die from pneumonia than from HIV/AIDS, diarrhea and malaria combined. Despite some reductions in global pneumonia mortality, progress in the highest-burden countries remains slow. Furthermore, progress in the fight against pneumonia has been slow compared to progress in other leading diseases.

Over the past 15 years, childhood pneumonia deaths have fallen by 50 percent. While this signifies impressive progress, it still falls short in comparison to an 85 percent decline for measles, and 60 percent for malaria, AIDS and tetanus over the same time period. The issue is partly one of financing relative to disease burden. For every global health dollar spent in 2011, only two cents went to pneumonia.

Every Breath Counts, was launched by the UNICEF during the African Union Summit at the General Assembly of the Organisation of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS, OAFLA. The launch features Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, Wife of the President of Nigeria, as the campaign’s first ambassador.

The two-year Every Breath Counts campaign will bring pneumonia to the attention of world leaders, policy makers and donors. The campaign will highlight the need to mobilise resources to reduce pneumonia mortality. It will also call for specific policies such as prevention through immunization and reduction of household air pollution, protection through exclusive breastfeeding and by facilitating community access to effective, timely diagnosis and treatment with amoxicillin and oxygen. By mobilising public health professionals, environmental groups and government officials through the Every Breath Counts campaign, the campaign will build cross sectoral momentum against the disease.

The global Every Breath Counts campaign focuses its initial efforts in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia where 84 percent of childhood pneumonia deaths occur.

The newly launched campaign website, EveryBreathCounts.info, highlights the celebrity and thought leaders that are speaking out for pneumonia, such as Aisha Muhammadu Buhari.

During prepared remarks at the launch event, the UNICEF officials underscored the importance of tackling pneumonia through a comprehensive approach that includes universal vaccination, exclusive breastfeeding, clean water, reduction of household air pollution, and early diagnosis and treatment with amoxicillin and oxygen.

With 31,000 childhood pneumonia deaths estimated for 2015, Ethiopia is among the countries in Africa with the highest proportion of childhood deaths caused by pneumonia. To address this, the UNICEF works with the Federal Ministry of Health to expand community access to health. A persistent gap seems to be in household awareness of the symptoms of pneumonia, leading to low care-seeking. The campaign will raise household awareness and catalyse action around pneumonia across all walks of life.

— Feb 1, 2016 @ 17:35 GMT

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