On World Pneumonia Day, Save the Children International (SCI) Nigeria has called on the Nigerian Government and Partners to champion the fight against childhood pneumonia, the largest infectious, killer disease of children under the age of five.
The charity made the call in a statement by Kunle Olawoyin, its Media and Communications Manager in Nigeria.
According to the organisation, the theme for this year’s World Pneumonia Day, “championing the fight to stop pneumonia”, is a reminder that urgent action is needed to protect the 700,000 children who are denied the chance to reach their fifth birthday every year.
“Almost all those deaths are preventable through vaccination, adequate nutrition, access to handwashing and basic health services, including access to oxygen treatment at the primary healthcare level. However, thousands of children cannot access the essential health services and treatments which can tackle pneumonia and save their lives,” Save the Children said.
While noting that the government of Nigeria, through the Federal Ministry of Health, has demonstrated its commitment towards ending child death from pneumonia, Save the Children said there is a need for greater commitment to sustain the momentum and accelerate progress in the fight against pneumonia.
It noted that the National Pneumonia Control Strategy and Implementation Plan, launched by the Ministry of Health in 2020, requires budgetary allocations to ensure its full implementation.
With pneumonia accounting for 20 per cent of under-five deaths in Nigeria, reducing pneumonia deaths will put Nigeria on track towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3 by 2030. Nigeria is still below 50% of the required rate for SDG3, it said.
Famari Barro, Country Director, Save the Children International Nigeria, said, “the unprecedented global climate and economic crisis poses grave threats to children’s health and survival.”
“Our flagship INSPIRING project, through our partnership with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), has been at the forefront of the fight against pneumonia in Nigeria. The fight must continue, and government must continue to champion this fight to protect thousands of children who die every year from this killer disease.”
Pneumonia can be treated if sick children have access to timely care and treatment. But for many children and their families, access to timely essential and life-saving treatments such as oxygen and antibiotics remains the difference between life and death. The good news is, Pneumonia is no longer a “forgotten” killer disease.
Adamu Isah (Dr.), Chief of Party, INSPIRING Project, Save the Children International Nigeria, said, “Evidence from our interventions in Jigawa and Lagos States have confirmed that we know the tools to confront pneumonia and end child deaths.”
“We have improved healthcare providers’ skills to better detect and treat children with pneumonia and donated high-quality and needed equipment and instruments to health facilities for improved quality of care. Our community interventions have improved caregivers and wider community awareness about pneumonia and improved their participation in the quality of healthcare they receive.”
As a matter of urgency and importance, Save the Children is calling on the federal, state, and local governments and partners to:
• Prioritize equitable access to primary health care, including prevention through immunization, prevention and treatment of wasting, and diagnosis and treatment of common causes of illness and death – for every child.
• Keep up the momentum of investing in uninterrupted and sustainable access to oxygen in all healthcare facilities in Nigeria
• Strengthen essential health & nutrition services and make the needed investment in primary healthcare, inclusive of community-based primary healthcare, to prevent thousands of children from dying from pneumonia and other preventable causes.
• Prioritize, introduce, and scale up access to pneumonia-fighting vaccines such as PCV for all children, especially targeting children suffering from or at risk of severe acute malnutrition and zero-dose children.
• Prioritize the prevention and treatment of severe acute malnutrition and ensure sustainable and adequate funding for nutrition to accelerate a reduction of child deaths from pneumonia. Ensure every child has access to life-saving treatment, including antibiotics and oxygen, when and where they need it. Now is the time for Federal, State and Local Governments to take deliberate steps to leverage COVID-19 oxygen investments and ongoing funding opportunities to keep up the momentum to improve basic oxygen access and use – so no child is left fighting for breath.
Save the Children commended the generous support from GSK and is grateful to Lagos and Jigawa States governments for providing the enabling leadership and policy environment for the project to succeed.