The United Nations Children’s Fund has tasked the Nigerian government to develop and implement strategies to control Pneumonia and its resultant high rate of death among under-fives in the country. This is as the agency reports that the infection claimed the lives of an estimated 162,000 Nigerian children in 2018 alone and accounted for 19% of overall child deaths in the same year.
According to a recent global analysis, Pneumonia is reported to have claimed the lives of more than 800,000 children under the age of five last year or one child every 39 seconds. Nigerian children contributed the highest number of this index at 443 deaths every day or 18 deaths every hour. A statement by the acting UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Pernille Ironside said Pneumonia was the biggest killer of children under-five in 2017.
‘‘Most global child pneumonia deaths occurred among children under the age of two, and almost 153,000 within the first month of life, more children under the age of five die from the disease than from any other infection. Pneumonia is a deadly disease and takes so many children’s lives, even though this is mostly preventable, yet, this killer disease has been largely forgotten on the global and national health agendas. We can and must change this.’’
To mark the 2019 World Pneumonia Day, UNICEF in collaboration with six leading health and children’s organisations are now asking world leaders to make funding available to tackle the global infectious disease. According to UNICEF, increased investment is critical to fight against the globally neglected infection ravaging children. ‘‘Funding for pneumonia lags far behind other diseases. Only 3% of current global infectious disease research spending is allocated to pneumonia, despite the disease-causing 15% of deaths in children under the age of five’’.
“Only through cost-effective protective, preventative and treatment interventions delivered to where children are – including especially the most vulnerable and hardest-to-reach – will be able to save hundreds of thousands of lives in Nigeria.” Just like many other diseases, Nigeria is ranked as one of the four countries contributing to more than half of the global burden of Pneumonia at 162,000 deaths annually, with India at 127,000, Pakistan 58,000, the Democratic Republic of Congo (40,000) and Ethiopia (32,000).
But Nigeria’s case may become more difficult as the biggest risk factors for child pneumonia deaths are malnutrition, indoor air pollution from the use of solid fuels, and outdoor air pollution. Caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi, Pneumonia leaves children fighting for breath as their lungs fill with pus and fluid. Children with immune systems weakened by other infections like HIV and those living in areas with unsafe water are at far greater risk. Pneumonia according to experts is preventable with vaccines, and easily treated with low-cost antibiotics if properly diagnosed, unfortunately, tens of millions of children are still going unvaccinated, one in three with symptoms do not receive essential medical care. Children with severe cases of pneumonia may also require oxygen treatment, which is rarely available in the poorest countries.
UNICEF says only 3% of current global infectious disease research spending is allocated to pneumonia, despite the disease-causing 15% of deaths in children. But the agency insists that through cost-effective, preventative and treatment interventions delivered to where children are – including especially the most vulnerable and hardest-to-reach places, will Nigeria be able to save hundreds of thousands of its young ones.