Pneumonia remains number one killer of children under five

November 13, 2017 4:55 pm
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Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu who officially opened the Word Pneumonia Day noted that an estimated 1,000 children die in Kenya annually as a result of pneumonia and diarrhoea, which are preventable and treatable conditions/FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 13 – Monday marked the ninth annual World Pneumonia Day and global health advocates are calling on leaders to scale up existing interventions and invest in new diagnostics and treatment to defeat pneumonia.

Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu who officially opened the Word Pneumonia Day noted that an estimated 1,000 children die in Kenya annually as a result of pneumonia and diarrhoea, which are preventable and treatable conditions.

“This is despite the steady progress made in improving child health outcomes in the last decade,” he said, adding that “child mortality has declined by almost 30 per cent since 2008.”

The uptake of health promotion and prevention interventions along with access to quality Newborn, Child and Adolescents Health Care (NCAH) services and treatment remain a challenge across all levels of care.

“Improving the NCAH remains a priority of the government as reflected in the constitution and the Health Sector Strategic and Investment plan 2014-2018,” stated CS Mailu.

“I would like to reiterate that investing in NCAH is a real game changer. Strategic partnerships in dealing with pneumonia in children under five years between the public and the private sector are crucial in dealing with the health systems issues in protecting, promoting and scaling up the uptake of recommended interventions of pneumonia.”

The Ministry of Health also launched a new pneumonia drug which will provide better treatment compliance among care givers.

Present during the commemoration, UNICEF Representative Dr Peter Okoth said the Amoxycillin Dispersible Tablets (amox DT) has a number of advantages over previous treatment options – such as simplified dosing and supply chain requirements, and a relatively inexpensive cost (about $0.50 per course of treatment).

“Given the large burden of pneumonia and the fact that about 70 per cent of pneumonia cases are left untreated every year, it is essential that high-quality, affordable amox DT is made available to all affected children,” Dr Okoth said.

“Every 30 seconds, a child younger than five dies of pneumonia. This is a great shame as we know what it takes to prevent children from dying of this illness,” said Dr. Okoth. “Tackling pneumonia doesn’t necessarily need complicated solutions.”

Global health advocates also called on leaders to scale up existing interventions and invest in new diagnostics and treatments to defeat pneumonia.

“To achieve the vision and goals of the integrated plan – to end preventable deaths from pneumonia and diarrhoea in the next generation – the children need to see political will, coordinated efforts, and increased resources at the global and national levels to fight these disease,” said Dr Okoth.

Many factors contribute to pneumonia, and no single intervention can effectively prevent, treat and control it.

Five simple but effective interventions – if implemented properly – will help reduce the burden of the disease that is responsible for almost one fifth of all child deaths around the world.

They are exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued breastfeeding complemented by nutritious solid foods up to age two; vaccination against whooping cough (pertussis), measles, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and pneumococcus; safe drinking water, sanitation and hand washing facilities; improved cooking stoves to reduce indoor air pollution; treatment, including amoxicillin dispersible tablets and oxygen.

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