UN throws spotlight on pneumonia, world’s biggest killer of children

2 May 2008

A new report from the United Nations says that pneumonia kills more children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined, and calls for greater coverage of vulnerable populations.

A new report from the United Nations says that pneumonia kills more children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined, and calls for greater coverage of vulnerable populations.

The report, prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO), was also welcomed by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Peter Salama, Chief of UNICEF’s Health Section, said yesterday that “pneumonia remains a significant problem in many countries but in particular in communities with a high rate of under-five mortality.” He added that, “pneumonia control is therefore essential in achieving the Millennium Development Goal [MDG] Four, which calls for a reduction by two-thirds in the under-five mortality rate by 2015.”

WHO says that much more needs to be done to raise the profile of pneumonia and that the control of the disease in young children has been neglected.

Important underlying causes of childhood pneumonia are poverty, malnutrition and poor household environments, including overcrowding, poor hygiene and smoke.

WHO, UNICEF and other organizations have proposed a global action plan for pneumonia to increase awareness of the disease and to scale up interventions that have proven to be effective.

The organizations called on countries to develop plans for controlling pneumonia based on their existing child survival strategies and to focus on using vaccines, increasing breastfeeding rates, using zinc supplementation to manage diarrhoea, reducing indoor air pollution and preventing HIV infection.

 

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