Championing the fight against pneumonia

Pneumonia is the single biggest infectious killer of adults and children – claiming the lives of 2.5 million, including 672,000 children, in 2019.

Deaths from COVID-19 will add two million more in 2020, bringing the total to more than four million. No other infection causes anywhere near this burden of death.

This year, World Pneumonia Day, on 12 November 2021, is held during COP 26 – the UN Climate Change Conference.

This is a critical moment to bring together the health, air quality and climate community to tackle the biggest infectious killer on the planet.

Air pollution is the leading risk factor for death from pneumonia across all age groups. Almost a third of all pneumonia deaths were attributable to polluted air, killing around 749,200 in 2019. Household air pollution contributed to 423,000 of these deaths while outdoor air pollution contributed to 326,000.

It is the very young and the very old who are at greatest risk. Children are more susceptible to household air pollution in homes that regularly use polluting fuels and technologies for cooking, heating and lighting. While outdoor air pollution, especially from pollutants emitted by industries and car exhaust smoke, disproportionately affects respiratory health among older adults.

Ninety per cent of air pollution-related deaths are concentrated in 40 low- and middle-income countries. In many African countries, air pollution contributes to more than 50 per cent of all pneumonia deaths. And while pneumonia deaths from household air pollution are declining in Africa, they are tragically increasing as a result of outdoor air pollution. This is also true for Asia.

The need for clean air action is clear. Reducing air pollution will deliver significant benefits to health and the environment.

This World Pneumonia Day, Every Breath Counts is calling on governments with heavy burdens of pneumonia and air pollution to commit to reducing air pollution-related pneumonia deaths by 50 per cent by 2030.

UNICEF/Bindra

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World Pneumonia Day 2021 Plans

Covid-19 Oxygen Tracker

Resources from World Pneumonia Day 2020

Last year, and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we pulled together a range of resources for World Pneumonia Day, including:

  • A unique ‘COVID-19 Oxygen Needs Tracker’ which measures the daily COVID-19 oxygen needs in low- and middle-income countries
  • Reports, articles, blog posts and multimedia assets with the latest stats and expert views on the issue of pneumonia

You can still access these resources here

World Pneumonia Day – let’s increase access to medical oxygen

“Oxygen has always been an essential medicine. COVID-19 is teaching the world just how essential.”

“This World Pneumonia Day, let’s all agree to work more effectively to increase access to medical oxygen.”

Gargee Ghosh, President, Global Policy and Advocacy, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Photo credit: Save the Children

World Pneumonia Day – a decade on

In 2009, a diverse group of committed doctors, advocates, academics, UN officials and business people came together to change the way the world responded to pneumonia, the “forgotten killer of children”. When they launched the first World Pneumonia Day in November, pneumonia was killing 1.2 million children each year.

Read our blog post, written by Leith Greenslade from the Every Breath Counts Coalition, to find out what’s changed in the decade since then – the progress that has been made, and the still-daunting challenge ahead.

Latest posts
  • Electronic health tools like pulse oximetry are a critical component of the child survival agenda - offering a lifeline to those who urgently need oxygen therapy to breathe.

  • How do we reduce the overuse of antibiotics for the treatment of pneumonia yet close the remaining access gaps for pneumonia patients, especially children, who are missing out?

  • "It’s not just the availability of oxygen that affects us. There are so many other challenges we face in our healthcare system here in Malawi." Read Mtheto Sinjani' story.