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Joint press release

Pneumonia prevention and care available for every child is key to defeat world’s #1 infectious killer of children

On the sixth annual World Pneumonia Day, the Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia calls for urgent action to end preventable child deaths caused by pneumonia by 2030

LONDON, UK, 12 November 2014 - Every day, more than 2,500 children under age five die of pneumonia, which is close to one million each year. This is nearly 1 in 6 of the total deaths in that age group. Today, the world commemorates the sixth annual World Pneumonia Day by calling on leaders to increase universal access for pneumonia prevention and care in order to end preventable child deaths by 2030.

Although the number of under-five deaths worldwide has decreased by half since 1990, many countries are not on track to reach Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG4), which calls for a two-thirds reduction in under-five mortality by 2015. Poor and rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are most behind on achieving this goal, with India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia accounting for almost 50 percent of total pneumonia child deaths. As we approach the MDG deadline of 2015, the world needs to speed up progress and increase political commitment toward reducing child mortality, which requires addressing preventable deaths from pneumonia, other infectious diseases, and complications around prematurity at child birth.

“Combatting pneumonia is essential to achieving the Millennium Development Goals related to health and child survival, and to laying the groundwork for ending all preventable maternal and child deaths by 2030,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who launched the Every Woman Every Child movement in 2010 to accelerate progress on women’s and children’s health. “We need a persistent and integrated approach to this preventable and treatable killer of children. I call on all sectors to come together now to defeat this disease.”

Children are dying from pneumonia because proven interventions that boost their natural defences and create a healthy environment, such as adequate nutrition, early and exclusive breastfeeding for newborns, vaccinations, hand-washing with soap, and low-emission cook stoves, are not available to all. For sick children and newborns, early access to antibiotics and oxygen therapy can be lifesaving. Better equipment for the detection of pneumonia is also essential. Equitable access to the right prevention, diagnosis, and care is crucial to defeat the disease.

“Pneumonia disproportionately afflicts the most marginalised and the poorest children, accounting for the deaths of almost 1 million children under five each year, according to UNICEF’s latest estimates”, said Dr. Mickey Chopra, head of UNICEF’s global health programmes. “Finding new, inexpensive and reliable ways of diagnosing pneumonia in low-resource health facilities, and being innovative in the treatment of the disease, will be crucial in reaching the most vulnerable children, and ending child deaths from this preventable cause.”

Pneumonia and diarrhoea together account for one quarter of all under-five deaths worldwide, and can largely be targeted by the same interventions. Moreover, bringing childhood healthcare closer to the homes of those most affected increases their access to quality prevention and care, which can save the lives of hundreds of thousands of children. The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF’s Integrated Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (GAPPD) proposes a cohesive approach to ending preventable pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths.

Today, events commemorating World Pneumonia Day are being held in countries throughout the world. In India, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Sudan and South Africa, ministries of health and partners in child health, such as UNICEF, WHO, USAID, Jhpiego, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Malaria Consortium are organising various awareness raising activities, including panel discussions, press briefings, roundtables, lectures, and a parade.

Malaria Consortium produced radio and television programmes about pneumonia in Ethiopia, Uganda and South Sudan, and pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline has developed a global “If Only You Pneu” video animation sharing children’s voices on pneumonia and its prevention. In the United States, IVAC also released its 2014 Pneumonia and Diarrhoea Progress Report today and the Gates Foundation pneumonia programme has announced increased funding this year for pneumonia prevention among neonates. WHO has just published new guidelines on indoor air quality and recently revised its classification and treatment of childhood pneumonia at health facilities to increase effective lifesaving interventions.

These worldwide events underline the global call by the Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia. Strengthened commitment to reach every child with interventions that prevent and treat pneumonia is needed to reach the MDGs and must be sustained in the post-2015 development agenda. Increased investment in pneumonia interventions and a universal scale-up of those that are proven to work are crucial for populations most affected in order to defeat this killer disease.


World Pneumonia Day was established in 2009 to raise awareness about pneumonia; to promote interventions to protect against, prevent, and treat pneumonia; and to generate action in combatting pneumonia. For more information about World Pneumonia Day, facts and figures and activities, please visit www.worldpneumoniaday.org.

The Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia was established in 2009 to raise awareness about the toll of pneumonia, the world’s leading infectious killer of children, and to advocate for global action to protect against, to effectively treat and to help prevent this deadly illness. Including more than 140 non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations, academic institutions, government agencies and foundations, the Coalition provides leadership for World Pneumonia Day, marked every year on November 12th.

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. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org.

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For further information please contact:

Rita Ann Wallace, UNICEF Media, Tel: +1 212 326-7586, Mobile: +1 917 213-4034, rwallace@unicef.org

Marian Blondeel, Malaria Consortium, Tel: +44 (0)20 7549 0552, m.blondeel@malariaconsortium.org





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