Pneumonia is the single largest infectious cause of death in children worldwide.
By Constance Ndeleko
12th November 2021– Save the Children published an article highlighting a drop on the number of children receiving Pneumonia vaccine for the first time in four years. They further elaborate that the demand for medical oxygen has terribly increased during the pandemic shaking up the progress in fighting childhood Pneumonia in Africa putting the lives of thousands of children in Africa at risk.
Pneumonia accounts for 14% of all deaths of children under 5 years old, killing 740 180 children in 2019.SAVE THE CHILDREN
Pneumonia is a form of acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs. The lungs are made up of small sacs called alveoli, which fill with air when a healthy person breathes. When an individual has pneumonia, the alveoli are filled with pus and fluid, which makes breathing painful and limits oxygen intake. /WHO/
Pneumonia is caused by a number of infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria and fungi. Pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics, but only one third of children with pneumonia receive the antibiotics they need.
Pneumonia can be spread in a number of ways. The viruses and bacteria that are commonly found in a child’s nose or throat, can infect the lungs if they are inhaled. They may also spread via air-borne droplets from a cough or sneeze.
“In 2020 there was a decrease in the number of children in Africa who received the Pneumonia Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) and the Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) vaccine, two vaccines that work to reduce the death rate from pneumonia which still kills 2,000 children every day.
Pneumonia, which is a potential complication of COVID-19 as well as other illnesses, remains the leading cause of death in children, causing around nearly three-quarters of a million deaths per year. Prior to 2020, the child death rate from pneumonia was already falling far more slowly than other major child killers.”
The unprecedented times disrupted immunization services where access to health services and immunization outreach was curtailed due to the pandemic making it difficult due to movement restrictions, curfew and rampant vaccine misinformation.
“Medical oxygen is a critical treatment option for children with severe pneumonia. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, each year 4.2 million children suffering from severe pneumonia in poor countries needed medical oxygen to survive. “
Pneumonia can be prevented by immunization, adequate nutrition, and by addressing environmental factors.
Pneumonia affects children and families everywhere, but deaths are highest in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
“Pneumonia is the ultimate disease of inequality. Every day, over 2,000 children die from this preventable and treatable disease simply because they do not have access to vaccines and essential treatments such as oxygen. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, health workers in low-income countries were left with devastating choices about oxygen supplies, in an environment where demand for oxygen spiked when there already wasn’t enough to go around.”
Children can be protected from pneumonia, it can be prevented with simple interventions, and treated with low-cost, low-tech medication and care. Effective vaccines can avert most cases, and with an early and accurate diagnosis, simple antibiotics can treat childhood pneumonia.