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India had 2nd-highest number of pneumonia deaths of children under age five: UN

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A UN report has said that India witnessed second-highest number of deaths of children under the age of five in 2018, adding that five countries including Pakistan and Nigeria were responsible for more than half of child pneumonia deaths.

Pneumonia, a curable and preventable disease claimed the life of one child every 39 seconds globally in this period, said report.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that globally, pneumonia claimed the lives of more than 800,000 children under the age of five last year – or one child every 39 seconds. Most deaths occurred among children under the age of two, and almost 153,000 within the first month of life

The name of five countries which recorded maximum deaths include Nigeria (162,000), India (127,000), Pakistan (58,000), the Democratic Republic of Congo (40,000) and Ethiopia (32,000).

This “forgotten epidemic” is now responsible for 15 per cent of deaths in children under the age of five, and yet, just three per cent of global infectious disease research spending is allocated to the disease, the UN agency said

In addition, the strong link between child pneumonia deaths and poverty is undeniable. Lack of access to drinking water, inadequate health care, and the burden of undernutrition and indoor air pollution are major drivers of vulnerability to the disease. Around half of all pneumonia-related deaths are associated with air pollution.

Sounding the alarm about this forgotten epidemic, the UNICEF and other health and children’s organisations launched an appeal for global action and will in January host world leaders at the Global Forum on Childhood Pneumonia in Spain

“Every day, nearly 2,200 children under the age of five die from pneumonia, a curable and mostly preventable disease. Strong global commitment and increased investments are critical to the fight against this disease. Only through cost-effective protective, preventative and treatment interventions delivered to where children are will we be able to truly save millions of lives,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said

Pneumonia is caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi, and leaves children fighting for breath as their lungs fill with pus and fluid. More children under the age of five died from the disease in 2018 than from any other. About 437,000 children under five died due to diarrhoea and 272,000 due to malaria.

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