As the World marks the Pneumonia Day on Tuesday, a new analysis by the UNICEF says Nigeria contributes the highest number of global pneumonia deaths.
The UNICEF analysis produced in September 2019 is based on WHO and Maternal and Child Epidemiology Estimation Group interim estimates and the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation estimates for the year 2018.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that pneumonia is caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi, and leaves children fighting for breath as their lungs fill with pus and fluid.
The World Pneumonia Day is commemorated annually on November 12 and the theme for 2019 is: “Healthy Lungs for All.”
According to the analysis, Nigerian children made up the highest number of those who died, with an estimated 162,000 deaths in 2018, meaning 443 deaths per day or 18 every hour.
It said pneumonia claimed the lives of more than 800,000 children under the age of five last year globally, or one child every 39 seconds.
In Nigeria, 19 per cent of child deaths were due to pneumonia in 2018, and it was the biggest killer of children under-five in 2017.
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.
Five countries were responsible for more than half of child pneumonia deaths: Nigeria 162,000; India 127,000; Pakistan 58,000; the Democratic Republic of Congo, 40,000; and Ethiopia 32,000.
Remarking on the situation, Pernille Ironside, Acting UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, said: “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.
“Increased investment is critical to the fight against this disease.
“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.”
According to UNICEF, the biggest risk factors for child pneumonia deaths in Nigeria include malnutrition, indoor air pollution from use of solid fuels, and outdoor air pollution.
Also, living in areas with high levels of air pollution and unsafe water, are at far greater risk.
To address the disease, UNICEF says it can be prevented with vaccines, and easily treated with low-cost antibiotics if properly diagnosed.
A joint global call to action by six health and children’s organisation to tackle the epidemic includes that governments in the worst-affected countries should develop and implement Pneumonia Control Strategies to reduce child pneumonia deaths.
They also called for improved access to primary healthcare as part of a wider strategy for Universal Health Coverage as well as increased funding for research and innovation.
Also, richer countries, international donors and private sector companies are urged to boost immunisation coverage by reducing the cost of key vaccines and ensuring the successful replenishment of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.