According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pneumonia kills a child every 20 seconds. Globally, pneumonia causes more deaths than any other preventable illness, and it poses the greatest risk to children under the age of 5. This infection of the lungs is typically caused by bacteria or viruses, and although pneumonia can be deadly if left untreated, flu and bacterial pneumonia vaccines are available to prevent its spread. However, for families living in poverty, immunization against pneumonia is often difficult to access, placing children's lives at risk. In 2009, the Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia designated Nov. 12 World Pneumonia Day, making this month an excellent time to reflect on what can be done to save more children's lives and raise awareness of this potentially deadly illness.
The theme of the fifth annual World Pneumonia Day is innovation. Although vaccines are highly effective in preventing the spread of pneumonia, some developing nations lack the means to provide these immunizations to children in need and their families. Public health experts and advocates from around the world will petition the governments of countries in which pneumonia remains a serious problem to devise more innovative solutions to halting the spread of childhood pneumonia.
The need for more advanced diagnostic tools and treatment methods are among the most urgent problems facing many countries. A report recently published by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea, highlighted the connection between the two conditions and revealed that these two illnesses together cause approximately 29 percent of deaths of children under the age of 5 globally.
In the report, experts emphasize the need for integrated health care programs, particularly in countries in which health care infrastructure is unable to meet the needs of families living in poverty. The report also highlighted the most effective means of preventing the spread of diarrhea and pneumonia, such as breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of infants' lives, increasing the availability of clean drinking water, promoting handwashing and other sanitary practices, and expanding access to vaccinations.
Pneumonia is a serious problem in many of the countries in which ChildFund operates, including Zambia. Since beginning operations in Zambia in 1983, ChildFund has worked to support local health care initiatives that provide children with vaccinations and other preventive measures against a range of preventable illnesses, including pneumonia.
Indonesia is another country in which pneumonia claims many children's lives. Approximately 150,000 Indonesian children die before their fifth birthday, largely due to health complications such as septicaemia, meningitis and pneumonia. ChildFund-supported early childhood development centers in Indonesia provide training to new and expectant mothers on a variety of health care topics, including how to recognize diarrheal disease, as well as sanitation and nutrition.
Pneumonia remains one of the world's leading killers, and unless action is taken, many more children will die from this preventable disease. ChildFund works in some of the world's poorest countries to support health facilities that provide lifesaving medicines and health care to children in need and their families, but we could not help as many communities without your support.
Becoming a child sponsor is one of the most effective ways you can make a difference in the life of a child. For just $28 per month, you can ensure a boy or girl receives the nutritious food, clean drinking water and health care he or she needs to grow up healthy. Please consider sponsoring a child today and help fight childhood pneumonia this World Pneumonia Day.