Innovation the Key to Winning the Battle Against the #1 Killer of Children

Innovation the Key to Winning the Battle Against the #1 Killer of Children

What do color-changing band-aids, human milk banks and peanut butter-based antibiotics have in common? They could be the secret weapons that deliver a victory against the leading killer of children under five – pneumonia.

Unlike the other major infectious disease killers of children – malaria, measles and tetanus – pneumonia continues to kill more than 900,000 children under five every year, more than 80% of deaths are among children under two years of age.

And despite the availability of effective and affordable vaccines and antibiotics, child pneumonia deaths have not fallen at the same rate as deaths from other infections.

Why is the battle against pneumonia proving so hard to win?

It’s not as simple as getting vaccines and antibiotics to children with pneumonia, no matter where they live. We need better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat pneumonia, especially in low resource settings where too many children are dying due to delays in care seeking, diagnosis and treatment as outlined in the report, Pushing the Pace: Progress and Challenges in Fighting Childhood Pneumonia.

Accelerating reductions in child pneumonia deaths will increasingly rely on the uptake of new technologies that target the leading risk factors and causes of severe pneumonia.

We need innovations that reduce children’s exposure to toxic smoke from indoor cooking fumes and increase the proportion of babies fed with breastmilk, especially in the critical months after birth.

We need new diagnostic tools that any frontline health worker can easily use to accurately identify a child at risk of death from pneumonia. These tools should enable rapid diagnosis of oxygen deprivation and trigger faster access to oxygen therapy.

And we also need family-friendly formulations of antibiotics that are easy for parents to administer and children to take.

A big push to get these new and improved technologies to the populations where child pneumonia deaths are concentrated is critical for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. 60% of child pneumonia deaths are in just six countries – Indian, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, China and Ethiopia.

To celebrate the new generation of innovators working on new pneumonia-fighting technologies, the world’s first Pneumonia Innovations Summit will be held on November 12th, World Pneumonia Day.

More than 30 innovators from all over the world will assemble at the Pneumonia Innovations Summit to discuss the next wave of innovations with the potential to transform the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of childhood pneumonia.

Innovations highlighted include respiratory rate timers that automatically count breaths, pulse oximeters that operate on cellphones, oxygen therapy delivered via a shampoo bottle, antibiotics that can be squeezed out of a tube and eaten like baby food, solar-powered cooking technology, and human milk banks where even the sickest newborns can get the protection of breast milk from donors.

You can learn more by visiting the World Pneumonia Day Facebook page here where each of the innovators and their innovations are profiled.

Until November 6th you also have the opportunity to vote for the innovation with the greatest lifesaving potential.

The five innovators with the most support will be awarded the People’s Choice Award for the Most Promising Childhood Pneumonia Innovations at the Pneumonia Innovation Summit on November 12th.

We all need to support the innovators working on solutions that can transform the lives of the world’s most vulnerable children.

They are champions for children and it is ultimately their efforts that will deliver the future we all want – one where the preventable death of a child is rare everywhere.

Leith Greenslade


Pneumonia Innovation Team

MDG Health Alliance,

The Pneumonia Innovations Team, co-chaired by the MDG Health Alliance and PATH, a global network of more than 200 organizations and individuals committed to accelerating the development of and adoption of new technologies with the greatest potential to reduce child deaths from pneumonia. The Summit is in support of the Every Woman, Every Child movement.