MOROCCO: World’s leader for children integrates pneumonia and the voices of youth into climate change talks

MOROCCO: World’s leader for children integrates pneumonia and the voices of youth into climate change talks

Article posted on December 15, 2016.

UNICEF launches two new pneumonia reports and asserts impact of air pollution on a global stage

This story is part of the 2016 round-up of World Pneumonia Day. Events and campaigns were held in many countries around the world to remind policymakers that pneumonia is still a silent killer taking the lives of many young children. Child health advocates and members of the Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia organized various advocacy strategies to shine light on the need to continue the fight to bring an end to this disease.

On Friday, November 11, 2016, the eve of World Pneumonia Day, UNICEF, together with UNEP, held a side event at this year’s COP22 Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, Morocco to launch the new UNICEF report, One is Too Many: Ending child deaths from pneumonia and diarrhea. The report was launched alongside the recently released Clear the air for children report, highlighting the major impacts of air pollution on child health, particularly in the form of pneumonia.

The Unacceptable Truth

Credit: UNICEF

Credit: UNICEF

UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Fatoumata Ndiaye opened the event by stating that pneumonia kills almost a million children per year—more than all other childhood illnesses. In about half of those cases, air pollution is a major contributing factor. Globally, one child dies every 35 seconds from pneumonia—more than the rate of deaths from malaria, TB, measles, and AIDS combined. This figure is completely unacceptable, particularly given the fact that the vast majority of these deaths can be prevented or treated.

As Ndiaye stated, pneumonia and other diseases result from serious social inequities, primarily affecting the poorest, youngest, and most marginalized children. Lifesaving treatment with the antibiotic amoxicillin costs less than 50 cents per child, and yet, less than half of pneumonia cases are properly treated. Exclusive breastfeeding, immunization, rapid diagnosis, provision of clean air, amoxicillin, and oxygen are among the key measures that make a significant difference in combatting pneumonia.

Despite being the single leading cause of death among children under 5, contributing to more than 16% of deaths, pneumonia receives only 2% of global health spending. UNICEF’s Every Breath Counts advocacy campaign, launched in January 2016 at the African Union conference, is seeking to raise awareness about, and spur investment in, child pneumonia prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

The Paris Agreement, ratified at COP22, constitutes a major step forward for children’s health. Actions to reduce air pollution go a long way towards improving health and protecting the environment.

Calls to Action

UNICEF’s event aimed to remind world leaders gathered at COP22 of the historic opportunity to save children’s lives by committing to actions that will reduce air pollution linked to climate change, and agreeing to invest in prevention, protection, and healthcare of childhood illnesses, especially pneumonia.



Specifically, UNICEF is calling on all governments and development partners to:

  1. Take action to reduce air pollution, and reduce exposure of children and pregnant women to air pollution.
  2. Strengthen air quality monitoring and dissemination of information.
  3. Implement ‘protect, prevent and treat’ interventions and allocate targeted national and donor financing to invest in front-line health services, and reduce household air pollution, reaching the most vulnerable populations.
  4. Improve education, communication, and awareness on air pollution and pneumonia.
  5. Guarantee access to essential commodities such as amoxicillin and medical oxygen.


The Voices of Youth

While children are disproportionately affected by climate change and they are the ones who will have to live with its impacts, they are largely left out of the conversation about climate change. In order to incorporate the voices of youth, UNICEF engaged 36 young people from over 9 different countries to map the contributors of and the positive actions being taken to address air pollution in their communities.

Credit: UNICEF

Credit: UNICEF

Youssef Elouizi, an 11-year-old youth mapper from Marrakech, Morocco, was selected by his classmates to represent the voice of children on air pollution and its impact on their health at COP22. He took the stage alongside leaders from the UN, Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition Secretariat, Mongolian Government Special Envoy for Climate Change, and Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.

All the reports by young people worldwide are compiled on UNICEF’s Climate Change Digital Map, which was displayed at COP22. These reports put youth at the forefront of conversations among world leaders and decision makers, so that their voices and experiences are part of the solutions that will affect their future. Since 2011, it has empowered children and young people in Brazil, Haiti, Kosovo, Argentina, Bhutan, and Madagascar. The UNICEF global climate map now has over 900 reports from hundreds of young people who have been contributing to this map.

UNICEF continues to work towards a world where no child has to breathe toxic air or dies of pneumonia. For Every Child, Every Breath Counts.

View the report and other related resources available online:

Recommended Reading