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Pneumonia kills half a million children under five in sub-Saharan Africa, UNICEF says as it launches campaign to curb the disease

‘Every Breath Counts’ aimed at African leaders and policy makers

© UNICEF/UNI169762/Clark
Baby Abinet, 3 months old and suffering from pneumonia, at the Hamido health post in Ethiopia. 2014

NEW YORK/ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, 31 January 2016 – UNICEF and global partners launched a campaign today urging African leaders to increase funding for pneumonia interventions and adopt policy changes to strengthen its treatment at the community level. More than 490,000 children under-five died from the disease last year in sub-Saharan Africa.

“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 Dr. Mark Young, UNICEF Senior Health Specialist. “More resources and more commitment at the highest level will bring us closer to stopping this disease from being a major child killer.”

Pneumonia kills nearly 1 million children under the age of five around the world, causing more deaths than HIV/AIDS, diarrhea and malaria combined. Progress in the fight against the disease has been slow compared to progress in other leading diseases. Childhood pneumonia deaths have fallen by just 50 per cent compared to an 85 per cent decline in measles deaths, and 60 per cent in deaths from malaria, AIDS and tetanus in the last 15 years. Funding has also remained low: For every global health dollar spent in 2011, only 2 cents went to pneumonia.

The campaign, Every Breath Counts, seeks to raise awareness among leaders, donors and policy makers of the need for increased funding and more adequate policies for pneumonia interventions. Such measures would help:

  • Prevent pneumonia by immunizing children, reducing household air pollution and improving hygiene practices;
  • Protect new born babies from pneumonia though exclusive breastfeeding;
  • Facilitate community access to effective and timely diagnosis and treatment with amoxicillin as well as oxygen for severe cases.

Every Breath Counts was launched during the African Union Summit at the General Assembly of the Organisation of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA). H.E. Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, Wife of the President of Nigeria, features in a public service announcement that premiered at the launch. Nigeria has the highest number of pneumonia child deaths in Africa, and the second highest in the world after India. 

More information about the campaign is available at: EveryBreathCounts.Info

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
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For further information, please contact:
Najwa Mekki, UNICEF New York, +1917 209 1804,




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