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Pneumonia: Big killer of little children on rampage in Nigeria, 4 others

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New report says 16 deaths occur every hour and death toll may reach 11m by 2030

By Chioma Obinna

In the space of 3- 4   minutes that it takes to read this story, 1 child would have died from pneumonia, equating to at least 16 children every hour. Chances that the children would be Nigerians are high because Nigeria ranks among the countries with the highest burden.

Experts say except there is urgent intervention, Nigeria is set to bear the highest burden of deaths from pneumonia by 2030.  Their concern is coming on the heels of a new analysis conducted by Johns Hopkins University and Save the Children based on a model developed by researchers tagged: ” the Lives Saved Tool” (LiST)  which revealed that 10,865,728 children will die of pneumonia by 2030 with the highest burden of deaths in Nigeria estimated at 1,730,000

Over the same period, according to the report, India is estimated to have a death burden of 1,710,000; Pakistan (706,000); the Democratic Republic of Congo (635,000), and Ethiopia (407,000).

The report warns that in Nigeria where pneumonia remains an ignored disease that has no champions, it killed 140,520 children under five in 2016. Signalling that more than 16 children died every hour.  Report also showed that more than 4.2 million children aged 12-23 months were not immunized with Pneumococcal Vaccine (PCV) in 2016.  The report also indicates that only 24 percent of children with pneumonia symptoms were taken to a health facility in 2017.

The Save the Children report also noted that 19 per 1,000 live births, under five mortality rate in Nigeria and 19 percent of all under five mortality was due to pneumonia in 2016.

Globally the disease is the biggest infectious killer for children, killing more than malaria, diarrhea and measles combined.

As a silent killer, pneumonia is caused by bacteria, streptococcus pneumonia, heamophilus Influenzae and other virus among others.

According to a Public Health Specialist with Save the Children International, SCI, Dr. Olutosin Adeoye, pneumonia is a leading killer of Nigerian children under five.

Adeoye, who spoke during a roundtable discussion organised by Save the Children to mark this year’s World Pneumonia Day in Lagos, noted that malnourished and poorly immunised or unimmunised children are mostly at risk of pneumonia.

He however noted that without action, Nigeria, India, Pakistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) would bear the highest burden of deaths.

Adeoye further explained that exclusive breast feeding among women would go a long way in tackling pneumonia.

He stressed the need for Nigeria to scale up vaccination coverage to 90 percent as report showed that 610,000 children under the age of five could be saved.

He stated that providing cheap antibiotics could save 1.9 million; and ensuring children have good nutrition could save 2.5 million.

Stating that improving pneumonia outcomes was critical, he noted that report showed that to reach SDG 3.2, Nigeria needs to prevent the deaths of 70,000 children by 2030.

“Pneumonia is largely preventable and treatable but a silent Killer with no advocates. Drop in Pneumonia mortality 2000-2015 much slower than others.

He said currently, Save the Children is tackling pneumonia among children in Nigeria through its project being funded by GSK, billed to run 2018 through 2022.

“We are focusing on pneumonia; we are getting baseline studies and already working with Lagos State Ministry of Heath, and PHCs etc.

“The burden of pneumonia is very high. In Nigeria, it is very high. We discovered that pneumonia has no champions. We are ready to tackle it headlong to ensure that children are safeguarded from the disease,” he said.

In her presentation titled: “State of Pneumonia among U5 children in Lagos State”, Dr. Monsurat Adeleke who is the State Integrated Maternal Newborn and Child Health Coordinator during the State-Level Global Pneumonia Report Launch and MNCH Week Planning Meeting with Stakeholders noted that globally, pneumonia is the second leading cause of under-5 deaths and that 880,000 children under five died of pneumonia in 2016.

“Most of the deaths happen in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Over 80 percent occur among children under two, many of them in the first weeks of life. A child who is severely malnourished is four times more likely to die from pneumonia. Globally, 51 million children suffered from wasting, and they face grave health risks.”

Adeleke explained that pneumonia can be transmitted through inhalation of common bacteria in a child’s nose/throat into the lungs, air borne droplets-coughing and sneezing, blood.

To prevent it, she stressed the need for proper immunization, adequate Nutrition- especially exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life as well as addressing environmental factors such as air pollution in crowded homes.

“The antibiotic of choice is amoxicillin dispersible tablets at both community and hospital setting.”

She disclosed that in 2016, Lagos recorded 1, 8267 cases of pneumonia while Ikorodu took the lead with 2848 cases.

What Pneumonia is

Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs. The air sacs may fill with fluid or pus (purulent material), causing cough with phlegm or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing. A variety of organisms, including bacteria, viruses and fungi, can cause pneumonia.

It can range in seriousness from mild to life-threatening. It is most serious for infants and young children, people older than age 65, and people with health problems or weakened immune systems.

The signs and symptoms of pneumonia vary from mild to severe, depending on factors such as the type of germ causing the infection, and your age and overall health. Mild signs and symptoms often are similar to those of a cold or flu, but they last longer.

Signs and symptoms of pneumonia may include: Chest pain when you breathe or cough.

Confusion or changes in mental awareness (in adults age 65 and older), cough, which may produce phlegm, fatigue, fever, sweating and shaking chills, lower than normal body temperature (in adults older than age 65 and people with weak immune systems), nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, shortness of breath.

Okoku’s GTCF partners Deloitte for New Hope for Kids

Newborns and infants may not show any sign of the infection.

Or they may vomit, have a fever and cough, appear restless or tired and without energy, or have difficulty breathing and eating.


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