Against the backdrop of the emerging coronavirus, 350 representatives from more than 55 countries met in Barcelona in January at the first Global Forum on Childhood Pneumonia to discuss strategies to control pneumonia, the leading infectious killer of children. Since the Forum, COVID-19 has spread rapidly – with almost every country around the world experiencing confirmed cases.
The COVID-19 pandemic is having a catastrophic impact on vulnerable populations, especially children, in the “double-burden” countries that are already experiencing heavy burdens of pneumonia, as weak health systems struggle to respond.
COVID-19 has added more than 4 million to the death toll. This could increase ‘all-cause’ pneumonia deaths by more than 75%. While disruptions to healthcare services are estimated to cause up to an additional 2.3 million child deaths– 35% from pneumonia and newborn sepsis.
Ensuring fast, accurate and affordable diagnosis and treatment – including access to medical oxygen – is critical in most countries. Urgent action is also required to increase awareness of pneumonia and improve careseeking behaviour, and to adopt preventive measures such as mask wearing and distancing.
Every Breath Counts welcomes the announcements from the World Bank, Global Fund, Gavi and others of new financing mechanisms and guidelines.
The coalition continues to urge governments and global health actors – including the 12 agencies who signed the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All – to ensure that the massive effort to control the pandemic protects vulnerable populations, and contributes to reducing ‘all-cause’ respiratory deaths among children and adults for the long term.
Investing in medical oxygen will not only help countries reduce COVID-19 deaths but will continue to save lives beyond the pandemic, including for newborns and children with pneumonia.
We have the chance to reduce vulnerability to another respiratory pandemic and to make rapid progress towards achieving the SDGs for health that leaders promised to achieve by 2030.
Q: How to protect maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and nutrition services in low- and middle-income countries during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Q: How do we prioritize invasive versus less-invasive respiratory therapies in low-resource settings?
Q: How can international actors best support local manufacturing of WHO-recommended COVID-19 technologies, where appropriate and feasible?
Pneumonia has been the biggest “missing piece” on the global health agenda for decades. There is no global goal for reducing pneumonia deaths and no global health agency responsible for supporting countries to prevent, diagnose and treat pneumonia.
Oxygen is an essential medicine. Yet it remains beyond the reach of the poorest & most vulnerable. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified high out-of-pocket costs for oxygen across the world, exposing the tragic results when patients cannot afford to pay.
The Access to Medical Oxygen Roundtables have created the platform for unprecedented cooperation between international development agencies and the major global oxygen suppliers and their investors.