World Pneumonia Day is an ideal platform that brings this childhood killer to the notice of the public eye. This, in turn, encourages governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), working at the grassroots level to step-up the fight against this scourge on a war footing.
‘World Pneumonia Day is celebrated annually on 12th November. Its major objective is to generate awareness about the killer disease in a bid to reduce under-five mortality.’
The Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia spearheads the worldwide celebrations on the occasion of World Pneumonia Day. The celebrations include over 140 NGOs, government organizations, civil society groups, academic institutions, and foundations. World renowned organizations, such as Save the Children, PneumoADIP, Global Health Council, Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, and Sabin Vaccine Institute are some of the key stakeholders that partake in the celebrations.
Objective of World Pneumonia Day in the Context of COVID-19
The primary objective this year – when the world is being ravaged by the devastating COVID-19 pandemic – is to take all stakeholders on board, to launch a global drive to tame the pandemic.
With the concerted efforts of all the stakeholders – healthcare professionals, governments, policymakers, advocacy groups, patient’s organizations, and civil society – a reduction in ‘all-cause’ respiratory infections and deaths in children and adults could become a reality.
This, in turn, will bring about a decline in the number of pneumonia cases too.
Salient Features of Pneumonia
Pneumonia is a disease caused by bacterial or viral infections of the lungs. It is the leading cause of under-five mortality across the globe. The most common bacteria that cause pneumonia in children are Streptococcus pneumonia and Haemophilus influenzae Type B (Hib).
Of the viruses that cause pneumonia, influenza viruses (types A, B, C and D) belonging to the family Orthomyxoviridae are the most common. Since pneumonia is a respiratory disease, it is primarily spread by coughing or sneezing.
Common symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, fever, and chest pain. Severe symptoms may include rapid breathing, severe chest pain, confusion, and disorientation.
Risk Reduction in Children: Children from low socio-economic backgrounds are at the highest risk of acquiring pneumonia. The risk can be minimized by the following measures:
- Reducing indoor air pollution
- Avoiding exposure to second-hand cigarette smoke
- Frequent handwashing with soap and water
- Consuming safe drinking water
- Increasing access to proper sanitation
Strategies to Strengthen Immunity in Children: Strengthening the immune system can help to prevent pneumonia in children. Some of the strategies to strengthen immunity include the following:
- Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life
- Consumption of nutritious food
- Zinc supplementation
- Immunization with the Hib vaccine
Impact of COVID-19 on Pneumonia
COVID-19 and pneumonia can be a dangerous combination, acting like a ‘double-edged sword’ that can have devastating consequences. During this currently ongoing pandemic, the number of pneumonia deaths is shooting-up due to coinfection with SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19.
This could increase ‘all-cause’ pneumonia deaths by more than 75%. Moreover, disruption of healthcare facilities by the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to cause an additional 2.3 million child deaths, of which 35% could be from pneumonia and new-born sepsis.
Many countries throughout Asia, Africa and South America are struggling to cope with the double-burden of COVID-19 and pneumonia. Effective strategies are urgently needed to fight both these diseases.
Experts have suggested that wearing masks, physical distancing and handwashing, could be beneficial for tackling both diseases simultaneously.
Pneumonia: Facts & Figures
- Pneumonia is the single biggest infectious killer which claimed 2.5 million lives in 2019
- COVID-19 could add 1.9 million to the pneumonia death toll this year
- 155 million children under the age of 5 years fall ill annually due to pneumonia
- 672,000 children died from pneumonia in 2019
- Pneumonia kills 2 children every minute
- Pneumonia kills more children than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined
- 99 percent of childhood pneumonia deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), as over 170 million children are not vaccinated in LMICs
- Only 35 percent of children worldwide receive the required three doses of PCV
- 47 million children are protected against pneumonia by vaccination with PCV
- 40 million episodes of pneumonia go untreated annually
- 11 million children under 5 could die from pneumonia worldwide by 2030
- 1.7 million children from India could die from pneumonia by 2030
How Can World Pneumonia Day be Celebrated?
There are many ways to celebrate World Pneumonia Day in order to raise awareness. A few of these are briefly highlighted below:
- Webinars: Given the current situation, where physical distancing is a must, lectures can only be delivered by means of webinars. Eminent chest specialists could be invited to deliver popular talks to educate and enlighten the public about pneumonia – a neglected killer disease
- Information Dissemination: Correct and accurate information dissemination plays a vital role in generating awareness among lay people. This can be achieved by means of newspapers, radio talks, and TV chat shows, among many other innovative means. This will help to spread the message about the deadly disease among the local community and beyond
- Telehealth Consultations: Teleconsultation is ideal for doctor-patient interactions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients, especially poor ones, suffering from chronic chest conditions, should be given an opportunity to consult their healthcare providers free of charge on the occasion of World Pneumonia Day. This novel mode of consultation will enable people to interact virtually and gain insight from expert chest specialists about pneumonia and its treatment and preventive measures
- Social Media Campaigns: Various social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram could be judiciously used to spread news items, messages, infographics, photos and videos to publicize the events taking place on World Pneumonia Day, as well as generate awareness about this killer disease. Using these platforms can spread the word far-and-wide, quickly and effectively
Strategies to Tackle Pneumonia Globally
- Stop Pneumonia Initiative: This is a very important initiative to reduce the global burden of pneumonia. It is spearheaded by the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. This initiative supports and lends voice to deprived communities, lacking access to good healthcare facilities and life-saving vaccines for fighting pneumonia
- Global Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Pneumonia (GAPP): This Global Action Plan, is jointly led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). This initiative could save the lives of over 1 million children annually by providing adequate preventive (vaccines) and treatment (antibiotics) interventions to the world’s poorest countries
- Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): The SDGs were initiated five years ago with the intention of achieving a specific set of goals by 2030. SDG 3 aims to “Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages”. Under SDG 3, Target 3.2 aims to end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age, which also includes pneumonia. The aim is to reduce neonatal mortality to at least 12 per 1000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least 25 per 1000 live births by 2030
Although major progress has been made in tackling pneumonia over the years, it still continues to kill countless infants and children across the globe. Therefore, much more still needs to be done to lower the disease burden.
So, on World Pneumonia Day, let’s pledge to fight this deadly scourge, which kills over a million poor, innocent children annually worldwide.
- World Pneumonia Day 2020 – Stop Pneumonia Initiative – (https://stoppneumonia.org/latest/world-pneumonia-day/)
- Pneumonia: The Forgotten Killer of Children – (https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/Pneumonia_The_Forgotten_Killer_of_Children.pdf)
- World Pneumonia Day During a Global Pneumonia Pandemic: 12 November 2020 – (https://journals.physiology.org/doi/pdf/10.1152/ajplung.00462.2020)
- World Pneumonia Day – (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Pneumonia_Day)