49 000 Malawian children on Pneumonia related death threat in a decade

As the first global conference on childhood pneumonia opens  to agree on concrete steps governments and partners can take to reduce child pneumonia deaths, leading agencies have warned that nearly 49,000 child unless action is taken.

Joshua Malango: Ministry of Health spokesperson
UNICEF Malawi Representative, Rudolf Schwenk

Ministers of Health from 16 countries including Malawi are in Barcelona, Spain attending the Forum and are expected to make major commitments to fight pneumonia.

According to UNICEF and Save The Children Malawi, boosting efforts to fight pneumonia could avert nearly 49,000 child deaths from pneumonia and other major diseases in Malawi.

“The Government of Malawi is aware of the high burden of Acute Respiratory Infections in the country and has prioritized Acute Respiratory Infections such as Pneumonia in its efforts to reduce child mortality and morbidity. The management of Acute Respiratory

Infections is part of the Essential Health care Package (EHP) and is a priority in the Health Sector Strategic Plan. We are working with local and international partners within a multi-sectoral approach to prevent Acute Respiratory Infections deaths,” said Joshua Malango, Public Relations Officer of Malawi’s Ministry of Health and Population.

He added that challenges in the management of pneumonia in Malawi include shortage of health workers  at community level, inadequate equipment for diagnosis and treatment, delays in getting sick children to hospitals and clinics as well as weak referral mechanisms for children requiring a higher level of care.

Malango said some types of pneumonia can be prevented with vaccines, and the disease is easily treated with low-cost antibiotics if properly diagnosed.

UNICEF supports the Government of Malawi by training health workers, procuring pneumonia vaccines, drugs and other supplies, which also help to keep village clinics  functional.

“Strong commitment and increased investments are critical to the fight against this disease. We can save thousands of children by scaling up interventions that protect children from infection and providing adequate and timely treatment when and where sick children need it,” said UNICEF Malawi Representative, Rudolf Schwenk.

Save the Children partners with the Malawi Government by building capacity of health care workers located in hard to reach areas to offer services to under five children, including for preventing and treating pneumonia.

Save the Children calls for concerted efforts to  increase resources at the community level to end pneumonia deaths among children.

“The 2019 Save the Children Global Pneumonia report shows that pneumonia remains the largest infectious killer of children under the age of five more than malaria and HIV combined. Pneumonia is a terrible disease that causes children unnecessary suffering.

“World leaders must increase their attention to pneumonia and take action to prevent and treat it to achieve the goal of ending child deaths by 2030” explained Save the Children Malawi Country Director, Kim Koch.

Pneumonia is caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi, and leaves children fighting for breath as their lungs fill with pus and fluid. Globally, more children under the age of five died from the disease in 2018 than from any other. Child deaths from pneumonia are concentrated in the world’s poorest countries and it is the most deprived and marginalised children who suffer the most.

In Malawi, pneumonia is one of the leading causes of death among children under the age of five. Children are at increased risk of pneumonia because of their weak immunity. Those with HIV/AIDS and malnutrition are particularly vulnerable.

The conference in Barcelona aims to put the world’s leading infectious killer of children at

the top of national and global health agendas; galvanize national action and mobilize the donor community to increase awareness of the scale of the pneumonia challenge.

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