Every breath counts — help #FightPneumonia

Melinda Gates visits mothers and their babies at the Mbagathi Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya where the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation rolled out a new vaccine for pneumonia in 2011. Pneumonia is one of the leading causes of death in children aged 5 years and below. Photo by: Gates Foundation / CC BY-NC-ND

Even as global child deaths have declined from 12.6 million to 6.6 million over the last two decades, pneumonia has remained the world’s leading infectious killer among children under the age of 5.

Despite available interventions, pneumonia still claims the lives 104 children every hour — nearly all of them in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

That’s too many.

The facts about pneumonia.

Pneumonia is a lung infection, making breathing painful and limiting oxygen intake. It is caused by infectious agents and can be spread by coughing and sneezing. Because pneumonia can be caused by both viruses and bacteria, multiple interventions are needed to reduce childhood mortality from the disease:

      ● Vaccines against haemophilus influenzae type b, the pneumococcus, measles and whooping cough can prevent cases of pneumonia from occurring.
    ● Exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of life and adequate nutrition improves children’s natural defenses, protecting them from pneumonia.
    ● Handwashing with soap helps prevent infections that cause pneumonia.
    ● HIV prevention stops opportunistic pneumonia infections that affect people with weakened immune systems.

Simple, proven solutions to fight pneumonia.

Pneumonia and severe diarrhea together account for a quarter of all under-5 deaths worldwide, and can largely be simultaneously targeted by the same interventions. Moreover, bringing childhood health care closer to the homes of those most affected, increases their access to better prevention and care and can save the lives of thousands of children and newborns.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is offering $100,000 grants to support new ideas for ways to improve how pneumonia is treated through our Grand Challenges Explorations initiative. We encourage you to learn more about this challenge and apply here.

On this World Pneumonia Day, I hope you will help us spread the word to #FightPneumonia.

World Pneumonia Day.

Follow the conversation online using the hashtags #WorldPneumoDay2014 and #fightpneumonia.

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About the author

  • Keith Klugman

    Keith Klugman is director for pneumonia at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he leads efforts to improve the development and delivery of pneumonia vaccines and expand the use of antibiotic treatments and diagnostic tools. An expert on antibiotic resistance in pneumonia pathogens and helped develop the pneumococcal vaccine, Klugman has long academic experience and has also worked for the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.