Pakistan’s fight against Pneumonia

Save the Children, in collaboration with WHO and ARI Research Cell, Children’s Hospital, PIMS, held a media briefing seminar today on 12th November 2010 at the auditorium of the Children’s hospital, PIMS, Islamabad.

The seminar was held on the occasion of World Pneumonia Day which is celebrated every year to help bring the Pneumonia health crisis to the public’s attention and to encourage policy makers and organizers at the grass roots level to combat this deadly disease.

Senior officials from Save the Children as well as members of the press and media attended the seminar where they were briefed regarding the prevention and control of childhood pneumonia in Pakistan.

Dr. Tabish Hazir, Professor of Pediatrics, The Children’s Hospital, PIMS, Islamabad initiated the seminar by briefing the media on the major causes of Pneumonia being a forgotten killer of children in Pakistan and highlighted the methods of prevention of Pneumonia.

He shared that out of more than 10 million under-five child deaths each year globally, pneumonia is one of the leading causes and up to 2.4 million deaths due to pneumonia may be occurring, mostly in the Africa, South-East Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean region.

He also said that an estimated 154 million childhood pneumonia cases occur every year in the developing areas and more than half are reported from 6 countries with Pakistan having an estimated 10 million cases every year.

He highlighted that factors such as the provision of inexpensive antibiotics, involvement of community health workers in the management of non-severe pneumonia with oral antibiotics, immunization through WHO-approved vaccines, reduction of household indoor air pollution and nutritional interventions to improve the pre-natal nutritional status of mothers could play an important role in the prevention of pneumonia and could help reduce the relative mortality rate in Pakistan.

In the end, he also stated that the lack of a coordinated effort on the prevention and control of pneumonia in many developing countries including Pakistan constitutes as one of the main obstacles for the achievement of Millennium Development Goal 4.

Later, Professor Mushtaq A. Khan, one of the pioneers of the National Acute Respirator’ Infections Program in Pakistan who played a vital role in launching the program in 1989, gave a speech on the topic ‘Dealing with Pneumonia – the Pakistani Experience’ and gave a brief account of how the National ARI Program was launched with the help of WHO and UNICEF.

It was composed of an ARI training centre (based at the Children Hospital, PIMS), a research component and a community outreach program.

He also explained how through this program paediatricians from all over the country were brought together to bring about a consensus on the diagnosis and management of acute respiratory illnesses in children.

He also highlighted how Pakistan has been at the forefront of research in acute respiratory tract illnesses in children.

Dr. Abdul Ban, Senior Manager Health Research at Save the Children US, Islamabad ended the seminar by throwing light on the challenges faced and way forward to deal with Pneumonia in Pakistan.

He said that proper treatment is an important strategy to reduce childhood pneumonia related disease and death and that there is a need to implement already existing guidelines appropriately at the community level.

Furthermore, he shared with the media that Save the Children in collaboration with the National Program for Family Planning and Primary Health Care and funding from World Health Organization recently conducted an operations research in district Haripur where Lady Health Workers (LHW) were trained to treat severe pneumonia using oral antibiotic and that the results were very encouraging and their respective studies would soon be published and are expected to have policy implications at the national and global level.

The Neonatal Child Survival campaign “EVERYONE” was launched by the Prime Minister in April 2010, on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Save the Children.

This was to meet the challenge of achieving Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4, to which Pakistan is a signatory.

This reduction in child hood mortality can only be achieved if we address issues such as pneumonia and diarrhea which are the major killers of our children.