India has largest pneumonia, diarrhoeal disease burden: Report

PTI| Updated: Nov 12, 2013, 18:56 PM IST

New Delhi: India continues to have the largest pneumonia and diarrhoeal disease burden in the world, according to a report by leading health US health institute The Bloomberg School.

400,000 children younger than five die due to these two diseases, and many more suffer from severe illness, says the Pneumonia and Diarrhoea Progress Report 2013 published by the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

It also points out that many Indian children do not have access to life-saving treatment and prevention measures which is leading to these deaths.

In the 2012 report, India had topped the list of countries with the most child deaths due to pneumonia.

While India has made some progress in coverage of pneumonia interventions since last year and is posed to protect more children from pneumonia and diarrhoea with the upcoming national scale-up of pentavalent vaccine and the promise of an indigenous rotavirus vaccine-two advancements highlighted in the report, its coverage levels for both pneumonia and diarrhoea remain below targeted levels, the report said.

"Every 30 seconds, a child younger than five dies of pneumonia. This is a great shame as we know what it takes to prevent children from dying of this illness," says Dr Mickey Chopra, Chief of Health, UNICEF. "Tackling pneumonia doesn’t necessarily need complicated solutions."

Many factors contribute to pneumonia, and no single intervention can effectively prevent, treat and control it.

Few effective interventions and actions suggested by WHO and UNICEF are exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued breastfeeding complemented by nutritious solid foods up to age 2.

 Vaccination against whooping cough (pertussis), measles, Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) and pneumococcus along with safe drinking water, sanitation and handwashing facilities can be effective in preventing the disease.

Recognising that child mortality cannot be addressed in a vacuum, but only through integrated efforts, in April, WHO and UNICEF released an Integrated Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (GAPPD).

The GAPPD created an innovative framework bringing together prevention, protection and control of both pneumonia and diarrhoea, two of the world's leading killers of children under 5 - to make more efficient and effective use of scarce health resources.