By; ALEX UANGBAOJE, Kaduna
The United Nations Children’s Fund, (UNICEF), on Wednesday revealed that two million children may die of pneumonia in the next decade if more effort is added in fighting the scourge.
According to UNICEF in a statement made available to newsmen by Rabiu Musa, Communication, Advocacy and Partnerships Specialist, the disease is the leading killer of children in Nigeria, causing 19 per cent of under-five deaths.
UNICEF therefore recommend that “boosting efforts to fight pneumonia could avert over 2 million child deaths from pneumonia and other major diseases in Nigeria.
“Malnutrition, air pollution and lack of access to vaccines and antibiotics among the drivers of preventable deaths from pneumonia, last year killed a child every three minutes in Nigeria.
“However, an estimated 809,000 of these deaths would be averted by significantly scaling up services to prevent and treat pneumonia.”
The statement added that 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).
According to the statement, the modeling by Johns Hopkins University is being released as nine leading health and children’s agencies host the world’s first global conference on childhood pneumonia in Barcelona.
“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 percent of childhood deaths from pneumonia globally.
“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.
“By 2030, that effect would be so large that pneumonia interventions alone would avert over 2 million predicted under-five child deaths in Nigeria from all causes combined,” researchers said.
UNICEF Nigeria’s Country Representative, Peter Hawkins, urged the government to match words with action in addressing the causes and drivers of childhood pneumonia deaths in the country.
“We have a responsibility to do all we can to avert these deaths by pneumonia, deaths that are nearly all preventable. It will take concerted action by all players.
“The announcement by the Nigerian Government of the world’s first-ever pneumonia control strategy coupled with the focus globally on combating pneumonia is a huge step forward.
“We now need to follow this with concrete action on the ground to address the causes and drivers of childhood pneumonia deaths in this country,” he said.
Pneumonia is caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi, and leaves children fighting for breath as their lungs fill with pus and fluid.
Most pneumonia deaths can be prevented with vaccines, and easily treated with low-cost antibiotics. But more than 40 per cent of one-year-olds in Nigeria are unvaccinated, and three in four children suffering from pneumonia symptoms do not get access to medical treatment.
On January 29-31, 2020, nine leading health and children’s organizations: ISGlobal, Save the Children, UNICEF, Every Breath Counts, ”la Caixa” Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, Unitaid and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, are hosting world leaders at the Global Forum on Childhood Pneumonia in Barcelona, the first international conference on childhood pneumonia.