Data show a continuing decline in childhood deaths caused by pneumonia, showing that new methods are working.
Since 2000, there has been a 44 percent drop in pneumonia-related child deaths.
Despite the hopeful news, UNICEF says scientists still need to develop better methods for countless other children to prevent them from dying from pneumonia each year.
“Pneumonia is still a very dangerous disease – it kills more children under five than HIV/AIDS, malaria, injuries and measles combined – and though the numbers are declining, with nearly 1 million deaths a year, there is no room for complacency,” Dr. Mickey Chopra, head of UNICEF’s global health programs, said. “Poverty is the biggest risk factor, and that means our efforts need to reach every child, no matter how marginalized.”
According to recent UNICEF reports, 15 percent of childhood deaths are caused by pneumonia, amounting to about 940,000 deaths each year. The death rates are highest among poor communities where cheaper heating and cooking fuels (wood, dung, or charcoal) are more common and cause air pollution in homes. Poor households are less likely to spend money for measles and whooping cough vaccinations, two of the illnesses that most commonly lead to pneumonia.
“Closing the treatment gap between the poor and the better off is crucial to bringing down preventable deaths from pneumonia,” Dr. Chopra said. “The more we focus on the causes and the known solutions, the faster we will bring this childhood scourge under control.”
Earlier diagnosis, better treatments and accessible healthcare are all key to saving children’s lives from pneumonia. At this time, the most successful method is the antibiotic amoxicillin, which health professionals give to children in tablets rather than vaccination shots.
Researchers continue working toward affordable, beneficial treatments to aid in earlier diagnosis.