Timely action


Every year, on the 12th of November, the world comes together to observe World Pneumonia Day, a solemn occasion aimed at raising awareness about the devastating impact of pneumonia. Recently, a report highlighted the grim reality that pneumonia claims the lives of more children globally than any other infectious disease, snuffing out a young life every 43 seconds.
According to a news report published on these pages, Pakistan faces an alarming ratio of child deaths due to pneumonia, making it a critical issue that demands urgent attention. Pneumonia, a lung disease caused by viral or bacterial infections, finds fertile ground in low- and middle-income countries like Pakistan, where malnutrition prevails, and vaccine coverage remains low.
The statistics from the United Nations International Children Fund (UNICEF) paint a distressing picture – out of every 1,000 children below the age of 5 in Pakistan, 74 do not survive, and 19 percent of those fatalities are attributed to pneumonia alone.
Experts emphasize the link between pneumonia and environmental factors, emphasizing the need for a concerted effort to combat pollution. Pneumonia not only attacks the respiratory system but weakens the immune system, often leading to fatal complications.
Vaccination emerges as a crucial tool in the fight against pneumonia. While the government has initiated vaccinations through the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), over 46 percent of Pakistani children remain unvaccinated. This gap in immunization poses severe risks, from hospitalization to irreversible consequences like paralysis and even death.
The lack of awareness, particularly in rural areas, exacerbates this situation. Parents play a pivotal role in safeguarding their children’s health by ensuring timely vaccinations as per the EPI schedule. Additionally, promoting standard health and hygiene practices, such as exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and proper handwashing, can contribute significantly to preventing pneumonia.
The government must collaborate actively with the private sector and NGOs to disseminate information about protecting children from this deadly infection. Initiatives should extend beyond vaccinations to include broader healthcare education, emphasizing the significance of exclusive breastfeeding and introducing innovative vaccines.
Early identification and treatment are paramount. Parents should promptly seek medical attention if a child exhibits symptoms like fever, flu, cold, cough, fast breathing, or chest wall retracting. Timely intervention can save a child from the serious complications that pneumonia may bring.
World Pneumonia Day serves as a poignant reminder – a call to action. It’s imperative that Pakistan takes comprehensive steps to address pneumonia, safeguarding the health and future of its children.