By Adedapo Adesanya
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has said that two million children may die from pneumonia and other major diseases in Nigeria, citing a new analysis carried out by John Hopkins University.
The disease is the leading killer of children in Nigeria, causing 19 percent of death for children under the age of five as more than 40 percent of one-year-olds in Nigeria are unvaccinated, while three in four children who suffer from pneumonia symptoms do not get access to medical treatment.
According to the Fund, forecasts show that 1.4 million children under the age of five could die from pneumonia over the next decade in Nigeria, on current trends such as malnutrition, air pollution and lack of access to vaccines and antibiotics which last year killed a child every three minutes in Nigeria
To tackle this impending crisis, nine leading health and children’s agencies led by UNICEF are currently hosting the world’s first global conference on childhood pneumonia in Barcelona to see how an estimated 809,000 deaths can be averted by scaling up services to prevent and treat pneumonia.
Researchers also found that boosting pneumonia services would create an additional a ripple effect that would prevent 1.2 million extra child deaths from other major childhood diseases at the same time.
The research recommended that interventions like improving nutrition, increasing vaccine coverage or boosting breastfeeding rates – key measures that reduce the risk of children dying from pneumonia – would also stop thousands of child deaths from diseases like diarrhoea (580,000), meningitis (68,000), measles (55,000) and malaria (4,000).
According to the researchers, “By 2030, that effect would be so large that pneumonia interventions alone would avert over 2 million predicted under-five child deaths in Nigeria from all causes combined”
According to UNICEF Nigeria’s Country Representative, Mr Peter Hawkins, “We have a responsibility to do all we can to avert these deaths by pneumonia – deaths that are nearly all preventable. It will take concerted action by all players.
“The announcement by the Nigerian government of the world’s first-ever pneumonia control strategy coupled with the focus globally on combatting pneumonia is a huge step forward. We now need to follow this with concrete action on the ground to address the causes and drivers of childhood pneumonia deaths in this country.” He added.
Scheduled to hold from January 29-31, nine leading health and children’s organisations – ISGlobal, Save the Children, UNICEF, Every Breath Counts, ”la Caixa” Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, Unitaid and Gavi, and the Vaccine Alliance host world leaders at the Global Forum on Childhood Pneumonia in Barcelona for the first international conference on childhood pneumonia.
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