Fight pneumonia with breastfeeding
The Global Action Plan is set to fight pneumonia.
Pneumonia kills more young children than any other disease, but an investment of $39 billion, or just $12.9 per child, could save 5.3 million lives in developing countries by 2015, the U.N. said on Monday.

The disease, which attacks the lungs, kills 1.8 million children under the age of five every year, but despite this toll, relatively few resources are put into tackling it, the World Health Organisation and U.N. Children's Fund said.

They made a joint appeal to fund a 6-year plan for pneumonia prevention and treatment in 68 developing countries, mostly in Africa and Asia, plus parts of Central and South America, where it is prevalent.

"We know the strategy will work, and if it is applied in every high-burden country, we will be able to prevent millions of deaths," Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organisation, said.

They also want policymakers to act immediately to implement the plan.

Their proposed Global Action Plan calls for:

  • Protecting children by assuring breastfeeding for 6 months, providing adequate nutrition, reducing low birth weight and indoor air pollution and improving hygiene.
  • Preventing children contracting pneumonia with vaccinations against major triggers, including measles, Hib, pneumococcus and rotavirus, by preventing and treating HIV in children, and by providing zinc for children with diarrhoea.
  • Treating children who get pneumonia with antibiotics and proper care in local communities, health centres and hospitals.

It sets targets for 2015 to expand coverage of the relevant vaccines and exclusive breastfeeding rates to 90% and increasing access to proper treatment to 90%

Reaching these goals would cut child pneumonia deaths by 65% and cut the number of severe pneumonia cases in children by 25% compared to 2000 levels, it said.

Children in rich nations are routinely immunised against diseases that cause pneumonia, but in much of the developing world vaccine coverage is patchy.

Has your child ever had pneumonia? Would you immunise against it?

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