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Pneumonia kills 17,700 Nigerian children a year

Every hour, 20 children in Nigeria die from Pneumonia, the biggest amount in Africa and second biggest in the world.

That means at least 17,700 under five year-olds die from the lung infection every year in the west African country, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

These figures were highlighted by The Paediatrics Association of Nigeria (PAN) ahead of this year’s World Pneumonia Day. (November 12)

The lung disease kills more children than Aids, malaria and measles combined and is responsible for nearly 20 per cent of deaths in young children, said the association’s president, Dr Dorothy Esangbedo.

"Pneumonia takes a devastating toll in the developing world," she told the west African country’s the Nation newspaper

About 98 per cent of children, who die of pneumonia, live in the world’s poorest countries, she said, adding that "for every one child that dies of pneumonia in a developed country, more than 2,000 children die of pneumonia in developing countries.”

Pneumonia is a lung infection that fills the lungs with fluid. It causes fever and breathing difficulties and can be deadly. In the world’s poorest countries, children under five and especially under two years old are at risk, especially in the very poorest communities. The elderly are also at risk. But some children and adults are at greater risk because they have other illnesses, such as HIV/Aids.

People with HIV stand a much greater chance of dying from pneumonia than those who do not have HIV, according to the World Health Organisation. Children who aren’t getting enough of the right foods can also have weakened immune systems, putting them too at higher risk of getting pneumonia.

Pneumonia also adds to families’ money worries. Medicines, transport to health centres and child care all have to be paid for. "Families often must take out loans or sell property to pay for care of their seriously ill child, which may further drag them into deep poverty,” said Dr Esangbedo. “These costs further contribute to the cycle of poverty for many families," she added.

Vaccines against two of the main causes of life-threatening pneumonia are used across the world. In Africa, as many as 10 countries, namely Rwanda, Gambia, South Africa, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Mali, Central African Republic, Benin Republic, Cameroon and Burundi are already using them.

With Nigerian children dying from pneumonia every day, the association is calling on the government to roll out these new vaccines as well as making existing vaccines more widely available.

Hayley attribution