On November 12, 2014, the world observes World Pneumonia Day. Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that is usually caused by bacteria or viruses. Children are more susceptible to pneumonia and usually present with fever, cough, breathing difficulty or loss of appetite. Globally, pneumonia causes more deaths than any other infectious disease. This is more so the case in developing countries and in children, as every 30 seconds an innocent child’s life is lost to pneumonia. Today marks another opportunity to raise awareness about pneumonia’s toll and to promote interventions to protect against, treat, and prevent the disease globally. In 2013, almost 1 million children died of pneumonia and the figure stood at 1.1 million in 2012 as seen in the figure, making it the number one infectious killer of children under five years of age; 99% of these deaths are in developing countries, where access to healthcare facilities and treatment is out of reach for many children.
In Pakistan, one fifth of the population is in this vulnerable age group of less than five years. These demographic trends are compounded by poverty, low literacy rates, healthcare accessibility issues and data gaps. In a 2008 WHO bulletin, Dr. Tabish Hazir, a prominent Islamabad-based pediatrician states “most pneumonia deaths take place in the under-privileged segment of society, where women are not very literate, have little formal education and are dependent on men. They have problems leaving the house unless accompanied by a relative. Then there are socioeconomic factors such as the lack of transportation and scarce finances.” Pakistan is striving to introduce pneumococcal vaccine into its portfolio of expanded program for immunization so that these children can be protected. There are many steps that need to be taken in order for that to have effect—most of them related to health systems and accessibility issues. That is why at Heartfile, we focus on the system. If that is functioning, it can deliver anything that is needed to prevent and treat a health problem.