Action Against Childhood Pneumonia


More than two million children under age 5 years die each year from pneumonia. This is more than the combined mortality from HIV, malaria and measles: an astonishing and not widely realised fact! Appropriate vaccination could prevent half of these deaths. Inexpensive antibiotics (about $0.27 for an average course of treatment) are available for treating most cases yet only one in five children with pneumonia receive antibiotics. We are able to transplant hearts and read the genetic code yet those in resource-poor circumstances are still denied the basic care and medicines for this "forgotten killer".

The Global Coalition against Pneumonia3 is a welcome initiative. Celebration of its first year will raise awareness about this disease. WHO and UNICEF have (on 2nd. November 2009, World Pneumonia Day) launched the Global Action (6 year) Plan for Prevention and Control of Pneumonia (GAPP)4 which contains three actions:

  1. Provide an environment where there is a low risk of pneumonia,

  2. Prevent children from developing pneumonia,

  3. Treat those who become ill.

The key recommended actions, based upon research over the last 20 years, include:

  1. Exclusive breast feeding up to age six months,

  2. Vaccination against pneumococcal and Haemophilus influenzae type b,

  3. Appropriate management of pneumonia especially in community facilities.


The challenge to introduce these interventions has already been taken up by a number of countries. Rwanda was the first to initiate a pneumococcal immunisation programme and infant deaths are falling. By 2015 the aim is to roll out a similar initiative in 42 other low-income countries.

Donors and our developing country partners must work together to ensure that the health of children is a priority  and put in place a package of interventions that can greatly reduce the death rate from pneumonia.



  1. 1.       Frist B & Sezibera R. Time for renewed global action against childhood pneumonia Lancet, vol 374, issue 9700, Pages 1485 - 1486, 31 October 2009

  2. USAID Bureau for Global Health, World Pneumonia Day 2009

  3. Global Coalition against Pneumonia is an international network of about 100 organisations/members dedicated to fighting childhood pneumonia. See

  4. WHO, UNICEF, the Hib Initiative, and PneumoADIP 2008 Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia Report of an informal consultation, La Mainaz, Gex, France, 5–7 March 2007