Save the Children & GSK – working to reduce child pneumonia deaths in DRC

Save the Children & GSK – working to reduce child pneumonia deaths in DRC

I am a technical director in external supply for Consumer Healthcare and have been at GSK for 13 years. I’m passionate about making a difference in the world and giving back to society, which is a foundation of my family’s beliefs. It was this ethic which led me to join Save the Children International this June for a six-month placement as part of the GSK Pulse Programme. Over the past months, I’ve been fortunate to work with some incredible people to achieve the commitment to children that Save the Children has made in its 100th anniversary year: to reduce childhood deaths from pneumonia.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the partnership between Save the Children and GSK is already making a difference…

Pneumonia, the deadly forgotten disease

In DRC, 35,375 children died from pneumonia in 2017. That’s around 4 children every hour. 2 million children under five in DRC contract pneumonia each year (GBD, 2019) and the deadly infectious disease accounts for 14% of all child deaths in the country (GBD, 2017).

Save the Children and GSK are working together to reduce the incidence of pneumonia by 75% to reduce the mortality rate to less than 3 per 1000 cases by 2030. GSK have contributed funding of more than 4.5 million GBP since 2013 to Save the Children to support this aim. We are working together using our collective reach and capability in public health to make a difference by:

• Improving the capacity of the Ministry of Health, conducting on-the-job training on essential healthcare, preventive and curative maternal, newborn and reproductive health services to dedicated nurse mentors.

• Establishing new Integrated Community Case Management sites (15 per health zone in Lomami Province) and training an additional 60 Community Health Workers (CHWs) in management of malaria, diarrhoea and acute respiratory infection.

• Providing technical and financial support to ensure delivery of training, micro-planning, supervision and outreach to improve immunisation activities at national and provincial level.

Implementing a behaviour change communication campaign providing education to parents, caregivers and providers to recognise the signs and symptoms of pneumonia, know the importance of vaccination and to promote essential practices to prevent pneumonia in communities and households.

Calling for increased funding for healthcare and uptake of essential medicines, and working with the government on a national strategic plan to fight pneumonia and dissemination of national technical guidelines for pneumonia treatment and application at the health zones level.

Impact to date
So what’s the result of all this activity? Well, so far 11,120 children have been treated with child-friendly antibiotics (amoxicillin) in the targeted healthcare regions for pneumonia since 2015.

Save the Children, through the funding and partnership with GSK, has been able to support more than 374 Community Care Sites, resulting in the percentage of children appropriately treated by health services rising from 4% to 40%. Children who could have died of pneumonia, through the work of the Save the Children / GSK programme now have access to free healthcare, which is a relief for families who are living below the poverty line – families like Dina’s.

Dina’s story

Dina is 2 years old and was diagnosed with pneumonia by a community health worker, supported by the partnership programme. Dina received timely treatment and made a full recovery. Dina lives next to a quarry on the outskirts of Kinshasa. The dust created during mining is a contributing factor to the higher incidence of respiratory issues seen in the area.

On receiving the treatment for her daughter, Maguy Dembo (Dina’s mum) commented: “At that time, I didn’t have a lot of money to get to the big hospital, otherwise I would have spent a lot of money in the big hospital. I was really relieved to go to a small clinic, where I could get treatment for free. Around the neighbourhood, many children were dying of pneumonia, but we didn’t know it was actually pneumonia, we thought it was just coughing.”

As a member of both the GSK and Save the Children families now, I am proud of this strong partnership and look forward to seeing the further impact our collaboration will have for child survival.

By Kiren Vyas