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EconomicState of Affairs

Africa’s health Paradox: Pneumonia is preventable but still kills 16% of children under the age of 5

Simon Ateba
Africa remains a continent full of incomprehensible contradictions. Take Pneumonia for instance. It is a preventable disease but still kills more children under the age of 5 than many well known diseases combined. 

At least 16 percent of all children who die under the age of five, especially in Africa, are killed by pneumonia, a disease that can be prevented by a vaccine.

As expected, the most affected children live in poor and rural communities in many African countries that often lack access to vaccines and other prevention and treatment tools.

Today, at least a million children could be saved with more prevention and treatment interventions. Unfortunately, the vaccine against Pneumonia is the most expensive, making its sustainability a great challenge for countries that are transitioning from GAVI’s support.

Besides, many people are still not aware of its overwhelming death-toll, and the disease has been overshadowed on the global health agenda. It also gets very little attention in the media.

To mark the World Pneumonia Day on 13 November, civil society organizations from Africa and Haiti asked their governments to eradicate Pneumonia.

Speaking at a conference on how to end Pneumonia in Africa, Mr. Aboubakar SYLLA, the President of ONG AGIS, said “Despite the efforts that have been made so far, much more work still needs to be done, particularly in poor communities. Every child, regardless of where they were born, need to access life-saving vaccines and medicines.”

He called on African governments to allocate more finances for immunization and broaden vaccines access within their countries during routine vaccination campaigns, for the disease to be eliminated.

Pneumonia can be easily prevented using vaccines and treated with medicine. There is evidence of commendable progress towards its elimination such as the drop in annual deaths from 1.7 million to an estimated 920,000 between 2000 and 2015.

Health officials argue that African governments need to honor their commitments to Immunization and shape the vaccine market to ensure sustainability for the Pneumonia vaccine.

To ensure that governments stick to their commitments, the civil society organizations are amplifying their voices for (a) more financial investment for Immunization by governments, scale-up of vaccination campaigns to reach the most remote locations and  for more community sensitization to demand for immunization services from their leaders during this key campaign date of the 33 Days to Power Up Immunization.”