NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 31 – According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) pneumonia kills more children in developing countries than malaria and measles combined.
Consultant Paediatrician Dr Mohan Lumba told Capital News that Africa is the most affected continent with two million children succumbing to the disease every year.
“The mortality rate for pneumonia is very serious. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and WHO estimate that pneumonia accounts for one out of five deaths in children under five years all over the world,” he said.
Pneumonia has also been rated as the number one killer disease in children in the region.
He said that due to the increasing number of cases, Kenya will on Monday join about 50 other countries in the globe to mark the first World Pneumonia Day.
Dr Lumba said that pneumonia health experts drew their concerns on dangers posed by the disease, which they concluded is a major contributing factor to infant mortality.
He said it was a set back in efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality.
The Paediatrician said health experts in the country will grace the launch of the event in Nairobi to create awareness on pneumonia, ways of preventing and treating it.
They will also brainstorm on strategies that can be incorporated to efficiently respond to the disease.
“It is unfortunate there is no awareness on pneumonia, it is a silent killer. More campaigns should be done to inform the public,” he said.
The expert attributed the rising cases to a rapidly growing population and the impact of climate change.
“Pneumonia spreads quickly in overcrowded areas as it is passed from one person to another, if one has a sore throat and the infections spreads to the lungs, one can also get pneumonia. In school if one child has it, it easily spreads to others due to close contact,” he said.
The doctor urged members of the public to seek medical attention if they suffer from symptoms of pneumonia, and practise personal hygiene as well to protect themselves.
Fortunately, there are new pneumonia vaccines available and Dr Lumba called on parents to take their children for vaccination.
“It’s only now that new vaccines are coming out. This definitely will decrease the deaths of pneumonia by 16 percent as indicated by WHO,” he said.
“Pneumonia not only causes emotional burden, it also causes severe financial difficulty to families and communities.”
But he said that with early diagnosis and vaccination, about one million children can be saved every year in Sub Saharan Africa.
“If caretakers can recognise pneumonia symptoms consequently it will lessen one third of children suffering from pneumonia and those receiving antibiotics,” he said.