Sola Ojo, Kaduna
As the World commemorates this year’s Pneumonia Day today with Kaduna State ranked second highest burden of childhood pneumonia among the seven North-Western States of Nigeria, the State Commissioner for Health, Dr Amina Baloni, told health correspondents that the state was doing a lot to prevent the killer disease among Kaduna under-five children.
Pneumonia is caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi, and leaves children fighting for breath as their lungs fill with pus and fluid (UNICEF).
Addressing a press conference to mark the World Pneumonia Day on Thursday, the Commissioner, who was a staff of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) before her appointment a few months ago said, the State Government was collaborating with critical stakeholders to stem the burden of pneumonia.
According to her, Government of Kaduna State recognises the need to work with the Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia as represented by the Paediatric Association of Nigeria, UNICEF and other partners and stakeholders.
“Efforts would be scaled up to combat the risk factors for pneumonia, such as promoting exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life and improving vaccine demand and utilization.
“Availability of affordable effective antibiotics, pulse oximeters at all levels of healthcare, and supplemental oxygen for the adequate treatment of pneumonia will be pursued,” the Commissioner said.
Giving a statistical background to the subject matter, Baloni regretted that, in 2019, pneumonia killed 2.5 million people worldwide, including 700,000 children, adding that, most of the pneumonia morbidities and pneumonia-deaths were in seven countries, with Nigeria and India being the most hit.
“Pneumonia, though very much a preventable disease, remains a tangible threat to the lives of under-5 children and the elderly. Every year, an estimated 155 million children under the age of 5 years are made sick by pneumonia.
“The situation in Kaduna state reflects this grim picture of preventable deaths, with pneumonia accounting for 13% of death of children before they reach their fifth birthday.
“The celebration of World Pneumonia Day helps to bring this kind of information to the front burner and, therefore, promote actions that can swiftly bring the ugly situation under control”, she added.
I a remark, President-Elect, Paediatric Association of Nigeria, Professor Olufemi Ogunrinde lamented that “Nigeria has unfortunately become the country with the largest number of children dying before their 5th birthday”.
He then suggested that the way out of the preventable disease was to invest heavily into the control of COVID-19 to be sustained and extended to improve child health outcomes, especially outcomes following childhood pneumonia.
“We pray that effective affordable antibiotics, supplemental oxygen, and pulse oximeters be made available at all levels of health care, including the primary health centres across Kaduna State.
“The visible collaboration between government and the organized private sector regarding control of Covid-19 should be sustained even after the pandemic, while engagement of the public and improvement in disease and health outcome surveillance occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic should be sustained”, he advised.