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Pneumonia Is The 'Forgotten Epidemic' That Claims Thousands Of Kids' Lives, Says UNICEF
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  • Global health organizations say that pneumonia is a ‘forgotten epidemic’ which kills more children under five years old than any other disease.

    The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says that according to a new analysis, more than 800,000 children under five years old died of pneumonia in the last year. Most of these fatalities occurred among kids below two years old, and nearly 153,000 occurred within children’s first month of life.

    According to a statement from the United Nations (UN), the countries with the highest numbers of pneumonia-related deaths in the last year are Nigeria (162,000), India (127,000), Pakistan (58,000), the Democratic Republic of Congo (40,000), and Ethiopia (32,000).

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    In September 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that pneumonia and other lower respiratory diseases like acute bronchitis and bronchiolitis accounted for 15% of all child deaths in 2017. Outbreak News Today also says that pneumonia was the third leading cause of death in the Philippines in 2016.

    The Mayo Clinic defines pneumonia as a disease that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs, causing them to fill with fluid or pus and leading to symptoms such as cough with phlegm or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing.

    The UN writes that “Lack of access to drinking water, inadequate health care, and the burden of undernutrition and indoor air pollution are major drivers of vulnerability to the disease.”

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    How to protect children from pneumonia

    Pneumonia can be cured and prevented through vaccination, which is why health authorities urge governments and other organizations to work towards effective treatment and immunization programs for children under five years old, who are more vulnerable to the disease.

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    “Every day, nearly 2,200 children under the age of five die from pneumonia, a curable and mostly preventable disease,” says Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF.

    “Strong global commitment and increased investments are critical to the fight against the disease. Only through cost-effective protective, preventative and treatment interventions delivered to where children are will we be able to truly save millions of lives.”

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    Leith Greenslade, the coordinator of the Every Breath Counts Coalition, says, “For decades the leading killer of children has been a neglected disease and the world’s most vulnerable children have paid the price.

    “It’s time for governments, UN and multilateral agencies, companies, and NGOs to join forces to fight pneumonia and protect these children.”

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that pneumococcal vaccines can give children the protection they need against pneumonia. The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) is recommended to be given to children below two years old and individuals between two and 64 years old who have certain medical conditions.

    Click here for everything you need to know about the PCV vaccine.

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