A Pneumonia Crisis across the Life Course
The fight to reduce deaths from the single, biggest infectious killer of adults and children has never been more urgent.
Pneumonia claimed the lives of 2.5 million, including 672,000 children, in 2019 alone. The combined effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and conflict is fuelling a pneumonia crisis across the life course – placing millions more at risk of infection and death. In 2021, the estimated burden of deaths from respiratory infections, including COVID-19, is a massive 6 million.
But it is the very young and the very old who are at greatest risk.
Children living in areas with declining vaccination rates, rising malnutrition due to food shortages, and in homes that use polluting fuels for cooking and heating, are particularly vulnerable. UNICEF has predicted an explosion in child deaths if urgent action is not taken to reach these children, including with oxygen and antibiotics.
Older adults exposed to air pollution – most significantly from burning fossil fuels – and smoking are also at risk. Almost half of the estimated 1.6 million pneumonia deaths among adults aged over 50 are attributable to air pollution and smoking.
This World Pneumonia Day, on 12 November 2022, the Mérieux Foundation and Every Breath Counts have awarded 11 civil society organizations small grants to support events that strengthen local engagement in the fight against pneumonia.
Most of the populations dangerously exposed to pneumonia live in a group of low- and middle-income countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America – including the 11 countries that are home to the winning entries.
Their efforts to mobilize communities to educate and empower families, and strengthen health systems to prevent, diagnosis and treat pneumonia, will make a big difference to a disease that is both preventable and treatable.