Getting ready for World Pneumonia Day

Pneumonia, diarrhoeal diseases and malaria are the biggest killers of children in the tropics. Malaria is the recipient of major funding efforts from the World Bank, the Global Fund, US President’s Malaria Initiative, DfID, Unicef plus many other bilateral, corporate and NGO donors.  Efforts to place a spotlight on diarrhoeal diseases and prevent mortality using oral rehydration in the 1980s and ’90s never really took off.  Pneumonia likewise has been a neglected disease.

wpnd.pngThe fate of pneumonia may change this year. One reports that during this year’s “World Health Day, a group of organizations and activists launched an effort to encourage the United Nations to declare November 2nd as World Pneumonia Day. Pneumonia which is the leading killer of children around the world taking upwards of 2 million lives of children under 5 every year is rarely discussed in the media as a childhood killer and is often thought of only as a disease of the elderly.”

GAVI observes that, “Pneumonia has been overshadowed as a priority on the global health agenda, and rarely receives coverage in news media. World Pneumonia Day will help bring this health crisis to the public’s attention and will encourage policy makers and grass roots organizers alike to combat the disease.”

Likewise Save the Children says, “We’re thrilled that so many people and organizations want to join forces for World Pneumonia Day to reduce the impact of the largest killer of children. Through our efforts, we expect to change the lives of millions of young children and parents by making childhood pneumonia deaths a part of history.”

Attention to Pneumonia does not detract from efforts to control malaria.  In fact the attached maps from the Malaria Atlas Project (MAP) and pneumoADIP show that the two diseases share common ground in the tropics. What is needed is an integrated at the community and household level that empowers local people to prevent and control childhood diseases through such actions as prompt and appropriate home management, hand washing, bednet use and vaccination.

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Coordination at the local level is the key to success. District health systems must be strengthened for us to realize the full potential that communities have to deliver the goods for child survival.

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