As Uganda celebrated World Pneumonia day on Monday, the Malaria Consortium, an international health NGO, called for the scaling up of community-based interventions for child survival to reduce child deaths to preventable diseases like pneumonia. "In Uganda, 40% of all deaths in children under five are caused by diarrhoea, pneumonia or malaria," said Dr Godfrey Magumba, the Malaria Consortium Uganda Country Director.
"Pneumonia alone is estimated to be responsible for 24,000 deaths in young children each year. We cannot even begin to think about reducing child mortality by two thirds and meeting the MDGs if we do not all pay serious attention to all three including pneumonia."
Pneumonia is a form of acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), it's the single largest cause of death in children worldwide.
Every year, the disease kills an estimated 1.4 million children under the age of five, accounting for 18% of all deaths of children under five years worldwide. Environmental risk factors that increase a child's susceptibility to pneumonia include indoor air pollution caused by cooking and heating with biomass fuels (such as wood or dung); living in crowded homes and passive smoking.
The Malaria Consortium has partnered with government as part of its child survival strategy by scaling up the Integrated Community Case Management (ICCM) which aims at diagnosing and treating children at community level.
The ICCM programme trains and supports volunteer community health workers, Village Health Team (VHTs), to conduct health promotion activities, diagnose and treat diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria, recognise danger signs in newborns and under-fives and refer to nearest health facility.
"We recognise the positive role of VHTs in managing pneumonia cases because they have capacity to reach children during the most critical time, reducing the negative effect of delaying diagnosis and treatment," said Dr Karin KÃ¤llander, coordinator of ICCM.
For Dr Magumba, this strategy is expected to reduce childhood deaths from these diseases by 65%, bringing diagnosis and treatment closer to home especially for those in remote areas. Also included in the programme are recent resources on hand washing, ventilation and other techniques to prevent pneumonia.