Pneumonia killing a Kenyan child each hour, study shows

Pneumonia, a preventable disease, continues to kill a child every hour in Kenya, a study has shown. A new report by Save the Children shows that 10,489 out of 22,473 child deaths recorded in 2015 were a result of the disease.

The report also indicates that in 2016, an estimated 671,967 children under two years were not immunised with the Pneumococcal vaccines (PCV) that could prevent most bacterial pneumonia cases. The vaccines, which contain antibiotics such as amoxicillin, can prevent 70 per cent of the pneumonia fatalities.

The report, Fighting for Breath, launched on November 2, also raised concern over the availability of life- remedy in health facilities, saying less than 60 per cent of health facilities in Kenya, have it.

The organisation said antibiotics costing just $0.50 (Sh51.80) on average, are frequently not accessible and often unavailable, especially to children from poor backgrounds. “Poor children are most at risk from pneumonia but health systems disproportionately provide for wealthier children,” the report said.

Saying that nearly a million children die annually from pneumonia globally, the aid organisation appealed for cheaper vaccines and action plans by governments to ensure universal access to healthcare. The report shows that pneumonia, “the forgotten child killer” is responsible for the deaths of more children under five than any other disease.

“It kills two children in this age group every minute—more than malaria, diarrhoea and measles combined,” the report further indicates. More than 80 per cent of the victims are children under two years, many with immune systems weakened by malnutrition or insufficient breastfeeding and unable to fight the infection.

“This is a disease that leaves desperately vulnerable children fighting for breath and their parents coping with anxiety and, all too often, the grief and trauma that come with loss,” said Kevin Watkins, chief executive of Save the Children UK and lead author of the report.

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