New Delhi: India needs to take urgent action to prevent, protect and treat pneumonia in children, said the International Vaccine Access Centre (IVAC) for the Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia in a report released Thursday.
India reports 370,000 deaths of children under the age of five annually - the highest in the world, said IVAC in a statement issued here.
The Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia (GAPP) issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Unicef in 2009 recommended that all countries reach 90 percent coverage of pneumonia related intervention by 2015 in order to achieve the millennium development goals (MDG).
Adopted by world leaders in 2000 and set to be achieved by 2015, the MDGs provide concrete, numerical benchmarks for tackling extreme poverty in its many dimensions. The eight MDGs break down into 21 quantifiable targets that are measured by 60 indicators.
The report, which was released earlier this week, finds that India lags behind in the lower end of the spectrum with just 38 percent coverage, the statement said.
Panna Choudhury, a doctor, said: "Too many children have died, right before my eyes because they can`t get to a health facility in time, or once they arrive, they don`t have access to antibiotics."
Naveen Thacker, another doctor, said: "India has yet to introduce pneumococcal and Hib vaccines, which have been proven to be the safest, most efficient way to reduce the number of our children dying from a preventable disease."
"When the data shows that fewer than 13 percent of our children stricken by pneumonia have access to treatment with antibiotics, the need for introduction of these vaccines becomes all the more urgent," he added.
A total of 15 countries have been covered by the report. These countries, which include India, Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, China, Pakistan, Uganda and Tanzania, are responsible for three-quarters of the global 1.6 million pneumonia deaths annually among children under five years, the statement said.