Barcelona global pneumonia forum aims to avert millions of child deaths
First ever congress in Catalan capital explores ways of tackling disease that claimed the lives of 800,000 children last year
Pneumonia is the leading cause of death in children around the world, but intensifying the efforts to fight the disease could avert up to nine million child deaths this decade, according to the first ever global forum on childhood pneumonia being held in Barcelona this week.
Until Friday, the Global Forum on Childhood Pneumonia brings together some 300 participants from around the world, including representatives of governments, institutions like UNICEF and Save the Children, as well as specialists in respiratory diseases.
The aim of this week's congress is to find practical ways to reduce the number of deaths caused by pneumonia by at least half, such as the unveiling of a new and more accessible pneumococcal vaccine from the Serum Institute of India.
Children in poorest countries most at risk
Child deaths from pneumonia are most prevalent in the poorest countries, and forecasts show that in the next decade such deaths are likely to be highest in Nigeria (1.4m), India (880,000), the Democratic Republic of Congo (350,000), and Ethiopia (280,000).
According to modelling by the Johns Hopkins University in the US that featured at the congress, scaling up pneumonia treatment and prevention services could save the lives of some 3.2 million children under the age of five.
The university's research also shows that this would create 'a ripple effect' that would prevent another 5.7 million child deaths from other major childhood diseases at the same time, thus emphasizing the need for integrated health services.
Congress to announce political commitments
In order to help achieve this, the congress will announce policy commitments by the countries most affected to develop national strategies to fight the disease, and in fact attending the congress are 14 health ministers from African and Asian countries.
Also present are representatives of the world's leading health and children's organisations: ISGlobal, Save the Children, UNICEF, Every Breath Counts, "la Caixa" Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, Unitaid, Gavi, and the Vaccine Alliance.
One child died every 39 seconds
Caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi, pneumonia affects children's breathing by causing their lungs to fill with pus and fluid, and it is estimated that it claimed the lives of some 800,000 children last year, which works out as one child every 39 seconds.
Although pneumonia can be prevented with vaccines and treated with inexpensive antibiotics, tens of millions of children remain unvaccinated and one in three children with symptoms do not receive the medical care they need.