World Pneumonia Day: How to Prevent 1.2 Million Child Deaths Every Year

The number one killer of children under five often times flies under the radar. “Pneumonia can be prevented and cured.  Yet, for too long it has been the leading cause of global deaths among children.  We know what to do, and we have made great progress – but we must do more.  We must scale-up proven solutions and ensure they reach every child in need,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marking today’s World Pneumonia Day.

An estimated 1.2 million children under the age of five die from pneumonia each year, estimates the WHO. Children can be treated with antibiotics, but as many as 30% of children with pneumonia are unable to access the antibiotics that can save their lives. Prevention of pneumonia starts at birth and includes ensuring that children are not malnourished and are immunized against pneumonia and other diseases that put them at risk. The UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities issued a recent report estimated that the lives of over 1.5 million children can be saved over the next five years if amoxicillin is made available in a dissolvable tablet.

“Today, pneumonia will kill thousands of children. And tomorrow. Every day. It is unconscionable that each year 1.3 million die from such a preventable disease. This need not be so,” said Dr. Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF in a press release. “There are simple, low cost solutions, such as hand washing with soap, vaccines and treatment like amoxicillin that can save these children’s lives. So what possible excuse can there be for a failure to do still more in the fight against this killer of children?”

On Friday, USAID and PSI hosted a call focused on how to prevent child deaths by pneumonia. PSI Ambassador Mandy Moore was joined by Amie Batson, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Global Health at USAID and Dr. Jane E. Miller, Senior Technical Advisor for Child Survival, PSI for the discussion. Listen to the call:

Organizations around the world, inclusing PSI, have come together under the The Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia to raise awareness about lifesaving initiatives that save lives. Today, landmarks across the United States will turn blue to mark World Pneumonia Day and to support the coalition’s work. Sites include the Trump Towers SoHo in New York City, Sait Leo University in Florida and the Montana State Capitol Building.

You too can join the global fight against Pneumonia. 

Solutions are known, it is a matter of building the support to implement them, which is a message world leaders are stressing today. “We can end preventable child deaths, ensuring millions of children reach their 5th birthday. Ensuring that no family needlessly suffers the loss of a child would be one of the great moral victories of our time. It would also be a great economic victory, because it helps lower population growth, and, through the demographic dividend, accelerate economic growth,” said USAID Administrator Raj Shah in a press release.