When killer diseases are being discussed, pneumonia hardly comes to mind. This is perhaps because of the misconception that pneumonia is caused by cold and since cold weather ids the least of our concerns in Nigeria, the danger of malaria is often overlooked. This has been a dangerous assumption and the country is paying heavily for this
To set things in perspective, pneumonia kills more children under the age of five than any other disease in the world. It claims a young life every 20 seconds! The alarming rate of death caused by pneumonia In Nigeria, particularly among infants below age five is worrisome. The deadly disease is reportedly responsible annually for an estimated 1.4million deaths globally and over 150,000in Nigeria, making it the major killer of children in Nigeria- hence the title, Silent Killer!
For every child in the developed world that dies from pneumonia, 2000 more die in developing countries. In fact, 98% of children who die of pneumonia live in developing countries. Each year, there are more than 150 million episodes of pneumonia in young children in developing countries and Nigeria records one of the highest cases in the world
This staggering figure is rather disturbing for a disease that can be prevented with simple precautions like immunisation (including Pfizer’s PCV 13) and good hygiene.
Expertshave identified ignorance on the cause of the disease, low breastfeeding and non-inclusion of the pneumococcal vaccine in the national routine immunisation programme of the country as some of the factors responsible for the high mortality rate recorded.
Contrary to popular widely held belief that pneumonia is caused by exposure to cold weather, food and water, the disease is a communicable one caused by a pneumococcal virus and urged everyone to key into the fight against the scourge. This misconception has done Nigeria more harm than good. It is like living in folls paradise!
Many Nigerians have a wrong mind set about pneumonia. They ignorantly warn children and wards not to take cold drinks or water to avoid contracting pneumonia and sometimes encourage them instead to wear sweater or thick clothing to prevent it but the main cause is pneumoniavirus transmitted by inhaling germs from dirty environments or ingesting same through the mouth by eating contaminated fluids.
Sadly, pneumonia accounts for about 17 per cent of total infant mortality recorded yearly in the country, yet our mothers and fathers are ignorant of its causes and prevention. Parents must know that the way this bacteria or virus gets into the body is through germs contracted under poor sanitation and hygiene.
Delta State is one of the states in Nigeria that seems to have a clear strategy for tackling this silent killer. In commemoration of the World Pneumonia Day in November 2012, the Delta State Government partnered with Pfizer Pharmaceuticals to immunise 2000 internally displaced children between the ages of 2-5 at various camps in the state. The PCV13 vaccines were procured through the state ministry of Health to vaccinate the children at the relief camps across the state. It was part of their overall strategy for preventing deaths from preventable childhood diseases.
Ahead of the Delta State and Pfizer collaboration program, nurses and immunisation officers were adequately trained on appropriate vaccine handling, safety reporting and cold chain management. Delta State Governor Emmanuel Udiaghan emphasised that vaccine immunisation as well as environmental care remains the most viable way to combat the antibiotic resistant pneumonia disease especially in camp environments. The vaccine immunisation program took place in Asaba, Kwale and Isoko camps where the impact of the floods was most severe.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) supports the priority inclusion of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in national childhood immunisation programs to help significantly reduce global mortality and morbidity
In his own submission, Consultant Paediatrician, Dr OlajideOjo said “Children who are predisposed to pneumonia are those who have not been exclusively breastfed, who attend day care and crèches and are exposed to passive smoke from cigarettes, charcoal, firewood in their homes and those that miss out on routine immunisation.
‘To reduce the dreadful rate of pneumococcal infections, which kills 17 children every hour in the country especially among low income earners, Nigerians must adopt improved hygienic lifestyles and increase vaccine intake for their children’, he counselled.
Many countries around the world have seen increased rates of invasive pneumococcal disease following the implementation of a National Immunization Program. The impact of PCV 13 on the burden of pneumococcal disease and antibiotic resistances, the prevalence and impact of disease on high risk children especially sickle cell patients and recommendations for the use of PCVs in various countries.
In Nigeria, the statistics paint a gloomy picture: One in seven children dies before the age of 5, pneumonia kills 1 child every 3 minutes, 6 million Nigerian children could become sick or die due to Pneumonia, this year alone and remains the greatest killer of children under 5 years.
To end on a positive note, the good news is that pneumonia is preventable. In 2009, WHO and UNICEF released the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia (GAPP) showing that pneumonia deaths could be reduced by two-thirds if existing interventions to protect against, prevent and treat pneumonia could be scaled up to reach 90 per cent of the world’s children. The Delta State Pfizer collaboration is a great example of a strategic approach to prevent deaths from pneumonia through a simple vaccine program. These recent efforts and progress recorded in reducing pneumonia deaths demonstrate that when proven interventions are utilized to the fullest extent, even more lives will be saved and much suffering will be averted. These results reinforce the need to reinvigorate political and social action to educate, inspire and create meaningful change in Nigeria and other developing countries that need it most.
A crucial part of the solution to pneumonia is to recognise its danger and take adequate preventive measures. According to The World Pneumonia Day Pneumoblog, another key plank in the strategy is to reach children most at risk of death from pneumonia and low income families, often in rural areas and far from the reach of formal health services.
By focussing on children in the poorest households, many more lives can be saved. It is also important to increase family awareness of the dangers of pneumonia and the critical importance of seeking care quickly and exploring new models of service delivery that better integrate pneumonia diagnosis treatment with the delivery of vaccines. Until this happens, pneumonia will still remain Nigeria’s biggest and most silent killer of children aged below five years.
L-R; Mrs. Roli Uduaghan-Wife of the Governor of Delta state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan-Governor of Delta state, Enrico Liggeri-Country Manager, Pfizer Nigeria and East Africa Region, Randy Buday-Managing Director DHL Nigeria.
· Pix 3: L-R; Enrico Liggeri-Country Manager, Pfizer Nigeria and East Africa Region, Mrs. Roli Uduaghan-Wife of the Governor of Delta state and Randy Buday-Managing Director DHL Nigeria.
· Pix 4: A child being dabbed by Mrs. Roli Uduaghan after his immunization.