Pneumonia kills 8,000 children in South Sudan every year

By Rose Keji Benjamin & Nichola Dominic Mandil

Left: Save the Children Health Workers treat 1 year-old Lokeno for severe acute malnutrition at a stabilization centre in Kapoeta North  and(Right)  One year-old Hakaroom is treated for severe pneumonia at a health care centre supported by Save the Children in Kapoeta North: Photo credited: Martin Kharumwa / Save the Children:

Save the Children and health partners have revealed that pneumonia kills over eight-thousand children in South Sudan every year. This means one child dies every hour on daily basis.

According to studies, pneumonia is an infection in one or both lungs. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Bacterial pneumonia is the most common type in adults. Pneumonia causes inflammation in the air sacks in one’s lungs. Children under five years of age may have fast breathing. Infants may vomit, lack energy, or have trouble drinking or eating.

Speaking during the launch of the global pneumonia report in Juba yesterday, Dr. Wilbert Shihaji, the Director-General of Health Cluster of partners in South Sudan, a unit within the World Health Organisation (WHO), said pneumonia is associated with factors such as “acute malnutrition and a chronic malnutrition.”

This is a unit of partners that come together to response to health emergency. They have teamed up this time to response and take action to fight child pneumonia.

“For South Sudan, you realise that there are factors which we can call the drivers, the underline factors that make pneumonia one of the most important causes of mortality. We know that the rates of malnutrition in this country are very high: both acute malnutrition and a chronic malnutrition,” Dr. Shihaji, said.

Speaking on the same occasion, the acting Country Director of Save the Children in South Sudan, Malik Arshad, said last year at least 13,000 children in the country were not vaccinated against pneumonia because vaccines were not available.

He said South Sudan was the “focus” of the report launched yesterday. Mr. Arshad made a “call to action” by all stakeholders in the “fight against childhood Pneumonia.”

“According to; the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF data in South Sudan pneumonia killed eight thousand two hundred and sixty eight children in 2015, more than a child every hour,” Mr. Arshad, who is also Save the Children’s Director of Programme Operations said.

“Today, Save the Children ‘calls to action on childhood pneumonia’. South Sudan is one of the focus countries in this campaign. We value our relationship with the Health Ministry and the Health Cluster. We believe that together we will fight for an end to childhood pneumonia” Mr. Arshad added.

He said pneumonia claims the lives of more children around the world than any other infectious disease, and divulged that the vast majority of those killed by pneumonia were the poor who live in low middle income countries.

“Ninety-one percent every one thousand live births under five died in South Sudan in 2016. At least twenty percent of children under five died of pneumonia in 2015. Last year, 12,901 children were not vaccinated because the pneumonia vaccines (PCV) were not yet introduced in South Sudan,” Mr. Arshad explained.

The Advisor on community health and special programme  in the National Ministry of Health, Dr. Samson Baba, who represented the government during the launch of the report, said only forty-four percent of the entire country had been covered by health services.

South Sudan has an estimated population of about twelve-million people, but almost half of this number has fled the to the neighbouring countries due to the on-going conflict, famine and other factors.

“If we vaccinate all the children in the Bomas, then what shall we do after that we need to also look at the maternal mortality rate, which is higher in South Sudan,” Dr. Baba said.

Dr. Baba also urged the health partners to commit themselves to health South Sudan Ministry of Health in the fight against pneumonia, which he described as “the disease of the most poor.”

The health partners represented by the members of the cluster echoed their readiness to work together with the country’s national ministry of health in fighting pneumonia in order to save the lives of children under five who are the main target of pneumonia.

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