The Issues

Pneumonia is preventable and treatable, yet remains a leading cause of death in children under 5 years old worldwide.

Preventing and treating pneumonia are key components in reducing child deaths—a global charge in the Sustainable Development Goals. Every child, regardless of where they are born, deserves access to clean air and water, lifesaving vaccines, appropriate use of amoxicillin, and oxygen therapy.

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Healthy practices include exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, adequate nutrition, and vitamin A supplementation.

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Vaccines shield children from some of the deadliest causes of pneumonia. Hand washing, clean air and water, and controlling HIV infection are also crucial.

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Families need timely access
to trained health care providers, diagnostics, appropriate use of amoxicillin, and oxygen therapy.

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Pneumonia is a common respiratory illness contracted by kids everywhere, from the United States to South East Asia and is the leading infectious cause of death among children under five, killing approximately 2,400 children a day. Pneumonia accounted for approximately 16 per cent of the 5.6 million under-five deaths, killing around 880,000 children in 2016. The most vulnerable children are in poor and rural communities, underlining the need to improve equitable access to high quality care, diagnostics, and treatment for all children.

Actively working to prevent and treat pneumonia supports Sustainable Development Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. In particular, SDG 3.2—ending preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age by 2030—can’t be achieved without continued effort and resources to beat pneumonia.

The good news: WHO and UNICEF have laid out a strategy in the Integrated Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (GAPPD). Controlling childhood pneumonia requires an integrated package of interventions to protect, prevent, and treat the disease. Fortunately, many of the interventions targeted at pneumonia also help control other childhood diseases, like diarrhea, and should be part of a comprehensive approach to child survival.