World Pneumonia Day 2012 Reminds Us There’s Still Work to Do
Tackling the Deadliest Disease for the World’s Poorest Children
Former First Lady, and Every Child By Two co-founder, Rosalynn Carter believes every child deserves a chance at a 5th birthday. That is why she is asking you to support The Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia and their efforts to raise awareness about the toll of pneumonia, the world’s leading killer of children. Today, World Pneumonia Day 2012, we’re all called to get involved and advocate for global action to protect against, effectively treat and help prevent this deadly illness.
Pneumonia: Word’s Leading Killer of Children Under Age 5
Despite a recent decline in the global number of child deaths, pneumonia still claimed 1.3 million lives last year alone. Children of all ages, but particularly those under age five, are vulnerable to respiratory infections that can lead to life-threatening pneumonia. However, pneumonia is not a single disease. It is a condition caused by many different bacteria or viral attacks which can lead to severe breathing difficulties, lung damage and often internal bleeding.
Sadly, nearly one in every five child deaths around the globe can be attributed to pneumonia – a disease in which the majority of cases are preventable and treatable. And more than 99 percent of child deaths from pneumonia occur in the developing world, where access to life-saving interventions is out of reach for most children.
According to the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia (GAPP), child pneumonia deaths could be reduced by two-thirds if three interventions to protect against, prevent and treat pneumonia were scaled up to reach 90 percent of the world’s children. These interventions include breastfeeding and vaccination to help strengthen the immune system, and case management to improve early detection, isolate infections, and improve access to, and administration of, appropriate antibiotics. Information released in the International Vaccine Access Center’s (IVAC) Pneumonia Progress Report explains that 15 developing countries account for 75 percent of all child pneumonia deaths and none of these countries have reached the 90 percent coverage targets for each intervention. This is why the Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia is calling upon country leaders to prioritize efforts and investments to reduce the number of preventable child deaths worldwide by supporting and implementing the measures outlined in the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia (GAPP).
“Countries have recognized the importance of vaccines in preventing pneumonia deaths and have stepped up efforts to introduce new vaccines and raise coverage levels for existing ones,” said Dr. Kate O’Brien, Acting Director of IVAC. “However, more must be done to make sure children have access to vaccines and all GAPP interventions to reduce their risk for pneumonia.”
Expanding Access to Vaccines
Here in the United States, children are privileged to receive vaccines that help protect them from life threatening diseases. Currently, there are four vaccines that are safe and effective at preventing causes of pneumonia: Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), pneumococcal, measles and pertussis. It has been determined that the Hib and pneumococcal bacteria are estimated to cause more than 50% of life-threatening pneumonia in children under five. Therefore, if we can expand access to these vaccines around the world, we can save children’s lives and avoid unnecessary and costly suffering.
Through the GAVI Alliance, a public-private partnership, more children are gaining access to vaccines that prevent the leading causes of pneumonia at an affordable price. If fully funded, GAVI’s can prevent up to 7 million deaths by 2030, but donor and developing countries must also ensure these vaccines are equitably distributed to all children.
Frontline health workers are often the only link to healthcare for many children worldwide and they are the key to getting vaccines and treatments where they are most needed. However, WHO estimates that there is currently a shortage of at least 1 million frontline health workers, particularly in Africa and parts of Asia. Efforts such as Save the Children’s Every Beat Matters campaign is just one way we are trying to bring attention to this shortage in order to spur action.
World Pneumonia Day 2012 provides an opportunity for everyone to help raise the profile of pneumonia. Efforts are being made in nearly a dozen countries, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Haiti, India, Nigeria, Philippines, and Zambia. In the United States, landmarks and buildings in 15 cities will “Paint the Town Blue” to raise awareness in their communities of the scourge of childhood pneumonia and what citizens can do to help.
- Write a letter or meet with your member of Congress.
- Raise awareness by sharing messages on your social media networks.
- Express your opinion in your local newspaper.
- Participate in community events.
- Sign a pledge to end preventable child deaths with World Vision, or A Promise Renewed!
Whatever you choose to do, please choose action. You can help in the fight against pneumonia by raising your voice and sharing these messages. After all, as Mrs. Carter asks, doesn’t every child deserve a 5th birthday?