Investing in child health: fight against Pneumonia

By Thomas Bwire

A child dies every 20 seconds globally while in Kenya close to 68,000 babies do not celebrate their fifth birthdays because they die of pneumonia and malaria!

Given such statistics, a Ksh.13.4 billion is needed in the next two years to test and treat children below five years who have been diagnosed with pneumonia in Kenya. With this kitty, children in this age group have a lifeline that will ensure they get to live beyond their fifth birthday, free from pneumonia-related illnesses.

This amount of money might seem too much but, it will come in handy to cater for the manufacture and rolling out of new child-friendly medicines.”Use of optimum treatments like oral antibiotics, injectable antibiotics, and oxygen for the management of severe pneumonia should be scaled up to reach all sick children and prevent unnecessary deaths,” Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu said.

Reduce newborn deaths is a priority and a measure to achieving three of the Sustainable Development Goals.  The goal highlights the importance of ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all ages.

“We need to Invest in newborn, child and adolescent health services as a game changer, this will not only ensure we have a society that is healthy but a one that can be productive in nation building in the future,” he said during the launch of Amoxicillin Dispersible tablets.

Amoxicillin, the magic drug that could see child mortality rates due to pneumonia reduced

Amoxicillin is a penicillin-class, broad-spectrum antibiotic which is commonly prescribed to children for the treatment of pneumonia and other illnesses, including bacterial infections of the ears, sinuses, throat, urinary tract, skin, abdomen and blood, amongst others. Studies show a greater effectiveness of Amoxicillin when used in the treatment of children with severe cases of pneumonia.

According to UNICEF, pneumonia remains the leading infectious cause of death among children under five, killing nearly 2,500 a day. In 2016, pneumonia accounted for approximately 16% of the 5.6 million under-five deaths, killing around 900,000 children. Most of its victims were less than two years old.

The Kenya Demographic Health Survey report  shows that, in Kenya, strides have been made in the reduction of infant mortality from 31 deaths per 1.000 live births in 2008/2009 to 22 deaths per 1.000 live births in 2014, while the under-five child mortality reduced from 74 per 1.000 live births in 2008/2009 to 52 deaths per 1.000 live births.

However, it is easy to lower and eventually do away with these numbers. Under devolution, county governments play a critical role in strengthening the management of sick children, in line with national standards and guidelines.

“Since we are yet to meet Millennium Development Goals, we must be aware that resources alone cannot reduce these deaths. We need to partner with stakeholders to win the fight,” Mohammed Sheikh, head of Family Health Unit in the ministry of health noted.

Pneumonia is caused by a number of infectious agents including viruses, bacteria, and fungi. The most common being Streptococcus pneumoniae a bacteria mostly affecting children.

Pneumonia deaths can be prevented by proper nutrition, vaccination and early diagnosis and treatment using the newly launched Amoxicillin Dispersible tablets.

World Pneumonia Day observed globally on  12th November every year looks at raising awareness about the world’s leading killer of children under the age of five. Key stakeholders also look at what kind of interventions can be taken to protect against, prevent and treat pneumonia.

According to the ministry of health, Kenya is reported to have made steady progress in improving child health care outcomes in the last decade. Child mortality has declined by almost 30 percent since 2008, largely due to the uptake of ORS and Zinc for the management of diarrhea in children under five years, improved exclusive breastfeeding practices and use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets among other factors.

Despite some efforts being enhanced, an estimated 31,000 children still die in Kenya annually as a result of pneumonia and diarrhea which is preventable and treatable.


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