According to UNICEF, pneumonia and diarrhea continue to be leading killers of children younger than 5 years of age worldwide. In 2012, more than 1.7 million children died as a result of these symptoms. Three of four deaths caused by pneumonia and diarrhea occur in 15 countries. The regions of the world most affected include India, Africa and the Middle East. Severe diarrhea is primarily caused by rotavirus, and pneumonia is caused by a variety of bacteria, including vaccine-preventable diseases such as pertussis, measles, Haemophilus influenzae type b and pneumococcus as well as by the vaccine-preventable virus: influenza.
The recently published International Vaccine Access Center’s (IVAC) “Pneumonia and Diarrhea Progress Report” provides the latest assessment of countries’ use of evidence-based interventions against pneumonia and diarrhea. The report examines the success of interventions that include vaccinating children against the leading causes of these infections, providing antibiotic treatment for children with bacterial pneumonia, treating children with diarrhea with oral rehydration fluid and promoting breastfeeding in the first six months of life.
The current IVAC report showed improvements in Ethiopia, Mali, Uganda, Tanzania and Burkina Faso. In addition, vaccination rates improved in almost all 15 countries.
Though much progress has been made in the global reduction of pneumonia and diarrhea deaths, continued implementation of vaccines and improved access to treatments are critical in eliminating preventable childhood deaths.