Every year, November 12 is marked as the World Pneumonia Day to create awareness on the importance of prevention, protection and treatment of Pneumonia, the leading killer of children under five years of age. It kills nearly 1 million children globally every year which is more than the deaths caused by HIV/AIDS, malaria and measles combined.
An event regarding World Pneumonia Day was organized at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), Islamabad. Dr. Atiya Aabroo, Deputy Director Programs on behalf of Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination with reference to the event said “The Government of Pakistan is cognizant of the fact that investment in the health sector is of utmost importance. Health is one of the foremost underlying factors that define the welfare of a country’s population, and children, as the building blocks of society has equitable access to quality health service. The interventions for tackling pneumonia are integral to achieve overall child health, and are needed to reach Sustainable Development Goals.”
In its resolve to fight Pneumonia, the Government of Pakistan has made significant improvement in Child Health indicators as under five mortalities have decreased to 74/1000 live births from 89/1000 live births, as quoted in the latest Pakistan Demographics and Health Survey (PDHS) 2017-2018.
To build on the progress, efforts need to be accelerated to ensure that no child dies from a preventable cause. The World Pneumonia Day is an opportunity to advocate with key partners on combining efforts to prevent and protect children from pneumonia and to provide treatment for sick children by ensuring availability of essential commodities for improving management of pneumonia.
In Pakistan, 14 percent of children under five years of age suffer from Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI), which can cause Pneumonia, if not diagnosed and treated quickly. Many deaths result from a failure to take the sick child to a health facility on time.
Cris Munduate, Deputy Representative United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Pakistan in her address said “UNICEF under the Integrated Global Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (GAPPD) recommends protecting, preventing and treating infections through proven interventions for improving management of pneumonia, and increasing child survival. UNICEF believes that every child, regardless of where they are born, deserves access to life saving vaccines and medicines.”
The Ministry of National Health Services Regulation and Coordination, and National and Provincial health authorities are working in collaboration with UNICEF and with the financial support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to prevent, protect and treat cases of Pneumonia among children under five. Through this initiative, essential commodities have been provided in all districts in Sindh and five districts of Punjab along with strengthening of services for better diagnosis and treatment of pneumonia.
The project is contributing towards reduction of deaths in under five children in Pakistan. Preventive measures for pneumonia in children has also been included as an essential component of the National Routine Immunization Strategy and within its framework, the Pakistan Expanded Program on Immunization provides free of cost vaccines for prevention against Hib, pneumococcus, measles and whooping cough (pertussis) diseases in all government health facilities.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Haider Shirazi, Associate Professor Neonatology Department, Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) Islamabad said “Pneumonia is the number one killer disease in children. We, in Pakistan are losing around 250 children each day due to this deadly disease. We can protect our children by breast feeding and immunization. Deaths due to pneumonia can be controlled by early treatment and referral”.