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.

Credit: International Federation on Ageing

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Resources from World Pneumonia Day 2021

The resources from World Pneumonia Day 2021 are still available for your reference, including:

  • Reports, newsletters, blog posts and articles
  • Podcasts
  • Country commitments

Access last year’s 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
  • How do we reduce inappropriate use of antibiotics for the treatment of pneumonia and close any remaining access gaps for pneumonia patients, especially children, who are missing out?

  • The 2nd Global Forum on Childhood Pneumonia will build on the momentum for action generated by the 1st Forum in 2020, and pivot political attention from COVID-19 to government action needed to reduce child pneumonia deaths.

  • Access to oxygen can be a matter of life or death. Read Barun's story - he has experienced the direct impact of oxygen access.