Pneumonia is one of the biggest killers of under-fives globally; in 2015, together with diarrhoea it led to one of every four deaths in children under five.


In fact, both illnesses kill 1.4 million children each year, the majority living in lower or middle-income countries.


Ahead of World Pneumonia Day (Saturday, 12th November), the Pneumonia and Diarrhea Progress Report: Reaching Goals Through Action and Innovation wants to highlight the dangers of this easily preventable illness in a bid to increase the number of children who receive vaccinations and lead to fewer deaths.



But what is pneumonia?


Talking to, Dr Safiya Ojo, a GP at the Wuse General Hospital, Abuja, explained that pneumonia is a viral infection of the lungs which can occur after a cold or flu. Risk factors include cigarette smoking, chronic lung disease or diabetes and respiratory infection.


“To prevent pneumonia, it is important to keep our environment clean while maintaining personal hygiene, avoid smoking to prevent the spread of the viruses,’’ Ojo said.



It ranges from mild to severe, and symptoms include: 

  • A dry cough
  • Phlegm that is yellow, green, brownish or blood-stained
  • Rapid and shallow breathing
  • Feelings of breathless, even when resting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Fever
  • Feeling generally unwell
  • Sweating and shivering
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain in your chest, joints and muscles 
  • Headaches

“Pneumonia and diarrhoea fly under the radar,” Kate O’Brien, a professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of International Health and IVAC’s executive director, said in the report.


“These illnesses are so common that many people and organisations fail to recognise the need to step up efforts and identify creative solutions to fight them. Although most cases are easily prevented and treated, they often prove deadly when families cannot access basic health services such as vaccines and antibiotic treatment.”



Sadly, according to a new UNICEF report published today - One is Too Many: Ending Child Deaths from Pneumonia and Diarrhoea - despite pneumonia being largely preventable through exclusive breastfeeding, vaccinations, reducing household air pollution and increasing the quality of primary healthcare, it claimed the lives of nearly a million children in 2015.