ISLAMABAD-Preventable disease pneumonia is annually killing as many as 92,000 children under five years of age. This was revealed by leading paediatricians in a statement to mark upcoming World Pneumonia Day.

A statement issued said that according to the World Health Organization estimates, pneumonia accounts for 16 per cent of the total child deaths making it the leading killer of children less than 5 years of age globally. Globally, Pneumonia accounts for more than 920,000 deaths among children under five years of age.

An estimated 99 per cent of children who die of pneumonia live in developing countries.

Dr. Tabish Hazir, former head of Paediatrics at PIMS said, “Pneumonia is acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs. Children under five with severe cases of pneumonia may struggle to breathe, with their chests moving in or retracting during inhalation (known as ‘lower chest wall in drawing’).

Young infants may suffer convulsions, unconsciousness, hypothermia, lethargy and feeding problem.” “Pneumonia is caused by a number of infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria and fungi. The most common bacterial causes of pneumonia amongst children include: Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib),” said Dr. Hazir.

He said, “Preventing children from developing pneumonia in the first place is critical to reducing its death toll. Fortunately, Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (pneumonia vaccine) was introduced in Pakistan’s EPI programme in October, 2012 and this achievement made Pakistan become the first South Asian country to include PCV in its national immunisation programme.

“Proper nutrition, clean drinking water and vaccines are important to fight pneumonia. Vaccines against pneumococcus, Hib, pertussis, and measles can prevent a significant portion of pneumonia cases from ever occurring,” said Dr. Rai Muhammad Asghar, President Pakistan Paediatric Association Centre and Dean of Paediatrics at Rawalpindi Medical University and Allied Hospital.

He added that preventing pneumonia averts treatment costs and other loses due to illness, and allows children to become healthy, productive adults. Vaccines hold promise of saving millions of children from dying of pneumonia.

“Every stakeholder including media, doctors and advocacy groups will have to play their role to increase awareness and stress the need of vaccination to help prevent our future generation from this deadly disease,” he said.