UNICEF and its worldwide partners have launched a campaign to urge African leaders to increase funding for pneumonia interventions, and to make the policy changes needed to improve disease treatment at the community level.
Statistics showing that over 490,000 children under age 5 died of pneumonia in sub-Saharan Africa in 2015 alone was a key factor in the new campaign, called Every Breath Counts.
“Although sub-Saharan Africa accounts for half of pneumonia deaths among children under five worldwide, funding for pneumonia prevention, management and treatment in the region remains low,” said UNICEF Senior Health Specialist, Dr. Mark Young, in a UNICEF press release. “More resources and more commitment at the highest level will bring us closer to stopping this disease from being a major child killer.”
The campaign aims to raise awareness among world leaders, policymakers and donors of the need to better fund and work to improve pneumonia interventions and care. Among the measures recommended by the U.N. agency are:
- Facilitate community access to effective and timely diagnosis
- Facilitate community access to treatment with amoxicillin and oxygen
- Protect newborn children from pneumonia through exclusive breastfeeding
- Prevent pneumonia by improving immunizations, reducing household air pollution and improving hygiene practice
Funding for pneumonia has remained low, with 2 cents (0.02) of every global health dollar spent in 2011 going to fight and treat the disease. Pneumonia kills almost one million children under 5 years old worldwide — a higher death rate than HIV/AIDS, malaria, and diarrhea combined, UNICEF said in its release. Progress also has been slow in comparison to other diseases, with childhood pneumonia deaths having dropped by just 50% since 2000, compared to the 85 percent decline in measles, and a 60% in malaria and AIDS over the same 15 years.
The campaign was launched during the 24th African Union Summit in Ethiopia, at the General Assembly of the Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA). Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, the wife of the president of Nigeria, was featured in a public service announcement that premiered at the event. Nigeria has the highest pneumonia child death rates in Africa, and the second highest in the world.
UNICEF works to defend the rights and well-being of every child, and with its partners has established programs and initiated other actions in over 190 countries and territories aiming to help children.