Why the World is Losing More Than 1 Million Children to Pneumonia Every Year

by: Leith Greenslade, Co-Chair, Child Health, MDG Health Alliance

Revolution, transformation, breakthrough, modernization, ingenuity, inspiration, invention, a.k.a. innovation.

This is what is so desperately needed to fight the leading killer of children under five and what we have been lacking for more than a decade. The last great innovation in childhood pneumonia was the introduction of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in the United States in 2000. Since then, nothing much has changed in the way we prevent, diagnose and treat childhood pneumonia and this is one of the major reasons more than one million children are dying from pneumonia each year and the world is so off-track to achieve Millennium Development Goal 4. Without a revolution in the way we respond to childhood pneumonia and particularly in those parts of the world where deaths are concentrated, we cannot fundamentally advance the health of the world’s children.

The Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia announced today the theme of the 2013 World Pneumonia Day commemorations will be “Innovation”. In the days leading up to World Pneumonia Day, celebrated every year on November 12, advocates will call upon governments to invest more in the development of new diagnostics and treatments. This year’s activities will also focus on the clear link between pneumonia and diarrhoea, which was the theme of the recently published Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (GAPPD).

In support of the Committing to Child Survival: A Promised Renewed global movement, UNICEF has published the 2013 Progress Report with updates on the trends and levels in under-five mortality over the past two decades. A Promise Renewed brings together key stakeholders committed to advocacy and action for maternal, newborn and child survival. The 2013 progress report is the second in the series and is released in conjunction with the child mortality estimates of the United Nations Inter-Agency Group on Mortality Estimation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF have released The integrated Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhea (GAPPD) that details the strategic plan for reducing the death and illness caused by childhood pneumonia and diarrhea. Pneumonia and diarrhea claim the lives of more than two million children each year.