India Tops Child Deaths Due To Pneumonia And Diarrhoea, Finds Study

Children die from pneumonia, commonly because their lungs are unable to perform their main body function of delivering oxygen to the other organs of the body. (Representational Image)

New Delhi: India has the highest number of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea deaths among children in the world, indicates a report.

According to the Pneumonia and Diarropea Progress Report, about 2,96,279 (approx 3 lakh) children died of the two diseases in 2016.

The report, released by International Vaccine Access Centre (IVAC) and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, shows that the top five countries with the highest global burden of child pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths are India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola.

Children die from pneumonia, commonly because their lungs are unable to perform their main body function of delivering oxygen to the other organs of the body.

Between 2015 and 2016, the ranking of the 15 countries accounting for the greatest number of pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths remain unchanged.

India, leader in under-5 pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths, increased its GAPPD – Global Action Plan for Pneumonia and Diarrhoea – score by seven percentage points by continuing to roll out Hib – Haemophilus influenzae type b – vaccine and improving exclusive breastfeeding rates.

India, however, still has a relatively low score, below the threshold of 50 per cent.

Progress in immunization coverage is underway in India with rota-virus vaccine introduced in the four states. As per the Ministry of Health, PCV (pneumococcal conjugate vaccines) that can combat pneumonia will be rolled out as part of the Universal Immunisation Programme in a phased manner in Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in 2016 with further expansion in 2017.

Even though effective treatments against pneumonia are available, diagnosis of pneumonia with limited resources often results in misdiagnosis, inappropriate disease management and sub-optimal outcomes.

The report says, “In the absence of adequate health infrastructures or technologies that enable proper assessments of a child’s condition, health workers in weak, under-staffed health systems in the developing countries may miss some cases.”

Dr Keith Klugman, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, says, “We need to examine the major risk factor of pneumonia mortality – under nutrition. The outcome of malnourished children treated for pneumonia is much worse than for well-nourished children.”

It is important to provide improved treatment of malnourished children in health facilities, need to measure oxygen levels in at-risk children and also find innovative ways to provide that oxygen.

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