Pneumonia is the leading cause of death from infectious disease in children under five worldwide, linked to 15 per cent of all under five deaths. Yet, it is preventable and treatable with two key products: Antibiotics, to treat pneumonia, and Oxygen, to support the recovery of children with severe pneumonia.
However, ensuring these products are accessible to children is challenging, with many countries facing bottlenecks at different levels of the health system. For example, one country may have antibiotics on the market, but in syrup-form which requires refrigeration that many families don’t have. Or, in another country, oxygen may be available, however, the equipment for delivering oxygen may not be available in sizes appropriate for children.
In 2018 UNICEF launched the Innovations to Scale Initiative to invest in already proven life-saving interventions. This was the start of SPRINT - Scaling Pneumonia Response INovaTions - UNICEF’s systematic response to ensuring access to pneumonia treatment.
With the understanding that both antibiotics and oxygen are required to treat pneumonia, the project focuses on two key actions.
- Building a Model: UNICEF has created a health system triaging tool to support countries in scaling the two products. The model is applied by health and supply chain experts to analyse the bottlenecks at various levels of the health system and recommend appropriate solutions.
- Expanding Access: UNICEF is applying the model in two countries to purchase and deliver the two products. With antibiotics, this means ensuring the dispersible tablet form of amoxicillin (Amoxicillin DT) is available since it is proven most effective within programmatic contexts. For oxygen, this means ensuring all pieces of the oxygen system are in place. This could involve the use of UNICEF-developed solutions, such as a decision-assist software and a guidance manual for procuring oxygen devices.
The ministries of health in both Senegal and Ghana are currently introducing SPRINT in targeted districts together with UNICEF. Both countries are part of the highest burden region for childhood pneumonia-related deaths (Western and Central Africa).
With over 70 years as a global leader in fighting for children’s right, UNICEF has gained a high level of trust by governments which places the organization in a unique position for implementing the model and creating systematic change.
In the coming years, UNICEF hopes to replicate the model in additional countries where there are high cases of children dying from pneumonia.