Nigeria has been listed as the leading country with the highest number of child death to pneumonia globally.
According to statistics by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 19% of child deaths were due to pneumonia in 2018, and it was the biggest killer of children under-five in 2017 in Nigeria.
In a statement made available to the Daily Times, the acting UNICEF representative in Nigeria, Pernille Ironside, revealed that while most global child pneumonia deaths occurred among children under the age of two, and almost 153,000 within the first month of life, more children under the age of five died from the disease in 2018 than from any other.
“Pneumonia is a deadly disease and takes so many children’s lives – even though this is mostly preventable. Yet, this killer disease has been largely forgotten on the global and national health agendas. We can and must change this’’, Ironside .
The survey further revealed that five countries were responsible for more than half of child pneumonia deaths with Nigeria taking the lead with 162,000, India 127,000, Pakistan 58,000, the Democratic Republic of Congo 40,000 and Ethiopia (32,000).
The statement revealed that the biggest risk factors for child pneumonia deaths in Nigeria were malnutrition, indoor air pollution from use of solid fuels, and outdoor air pollution.
“Children with immune systems weakened by other infections like HIV or by malnutrition, and those living in areas with high levels of air pollution and unsafe water, are at far greater risk.
“The disease can be prevented with vaccines, and easily treated with low-cost antibiotics if properly diagnosed. Tens of millions of children are still going unvaccinated and one in three with symptoms do not receive essential medical care’’, it added.
While advocating for increased investment to the fight against this disease Ironside said, “Only through cost-effective protective, preventative and treatment interventions delivered to where children are – including especially the most vulnerable and hardest-to-reach – will we be able to save hundreds of thousands of lives in Nigeria.”
Governments in the worst-affected countries were urged to develop and implement Pneumonia Control Strategies to reduce child pneumonia deaths; and to improve access to primary health care as part of a wider strategy for universal health coverage.