Pneumonia: The forgotten child killer

Thursday 9 May 2019

Emanman, aged 8 years is receiving treatment at the Lodwar County hospital inTurkana region Northern Kenya. Emanman's siblings Achuka, aged 2 years and Alice, aged 4 months, were both admitted to hospital with pneumonia within the same week.

Nearly 1 million children a year are dying from pneumonia even though it can be treated with antibiotics costing as little as Ksh 39 ( 30p). Pneumonia, ‘the forgotten child killer’, is responsible for the deaths of more children under five than any other disease.

"Pneumonia is the leading cause of death from infectious causes for children under five years in Kenya. It kills two children in this age group every minute - more than malaria, diarrhoea and measles combined. Over 80% occur among children aged less than two years old, many of them in the first weeks of life, and many with immune systems weakened by malnutrition or insufficient breastfeeding and unable to fight the infection,"Dr Lynn Kanyuuru, Save the Children Kenya's Head of Health and Nutrition.

The paediatric ward at Lodwar Hospital sees a high volume of cases of children suffering with pneumonia. In the surrounding rural areas 6 to 7 out of every 10 children contracts severe pneumonia at some stage. The hospital treats the condition with both intravenous and oral antibiotics. Children who are lucky enough to get to the paediatric ward (they often have long distances to travel to get to the hospital and their families may not have the means or the funds to do so) usually respond well to the antibiotics within a couple of days.