6 Suprising Facts About Childhood Pneumonia

Everything you need to know about childhood pneumonia

UNICEF Indonesia
Baiq Yulianti and Septian
UNICEF/2020/Arimacs Wilander
31 January 2020

Pneumonia is an acute respiratory infection of the lungs. It doesn’t have one single cause – it can develop from either bacteria, viruses or fungi in the air. When a child is infected, his or her lungs are filled with fluid and it becomes difficult to breathe. The other symptoms include fever, cough, and wheezing.

Here are a few surprising facts about childhood pneumonia you should know about.


1. Pneumonia kills more children than any other infectious disease

Globally, over 800,000 children under five die from pneumonia every year. In Indonesia, more than 19,000 children under five died from pneumonia in 2018. That’s more than 2 children every hour.


2. Pneumonia is contagious

Pneumonia is contagious and can be spread in several ways. It can be spread through airborne particles (from cough or sneeze), through blood, especially during and shortly after birth, or from contaminated surfaces.


3. Around 50% of childhood pneumonia deaths are associated with air pollution

A healthy immune system usually protects the body from infectious agents, but there are many factors that weaken the body’s protection, in children this includes air pollution.

Outdoor air pollution is a risk to children, especially with growing rates of urbanization in high-burden pneumonia countries. But indoor air pollution – generated by unclean fuels for cooking and heating – poses a greater global threat. Indoor pollution contributes to 62 per cent of air pollution-related child pneumonia deaths.


4. Studies show that improved handwashing with soap reduces the risk of pneumonia by up to 50%

Pneumonia can be prevented in the first place by increasing protective measures, such as adequate nutrition, and by reducing risk factors like air pollution (which makes the lungs more vulnerable to infection) and using good hygiene practices.

Improved handwashing with soap reduces the risk of pneumonia by up to 50 per cent by lowering exposure to bacteria. In Indonesia, 64% of the population had basic hand washing facilities in 2017.


5. Breastfeeding helps prevent pneumonia

Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life is an effective way to protect children from pneumonia and other infectious disease. Breast milk makes a baby’s immune system stronger.


6. Vaccines can prevent pneumonia deaths

Almost all deaths from pneumonia are preventable. The most effective way to protect children from pneumonia is immunization, specifically immunization against Hib, pneumococcus, measles and whopping cough (pertussis).

In Indonesia, DTP3 and Hib3 vaccine coverage among 1-year-old per 2018 were both 79%. Indonesia has set a target of scalling up PCV by 2024 to reach all of the 5 millions babies born each year. 


Read our work to address childhood pneumonia in Lombok here