Caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi, pneumonia is an acute respiratory infection in the lungs that kills approximately 1.6 million children every year, making it the leading cause of child deaths worldwide.
People most at risk:
Children with weakened immune system are less able to fight off infection. Environmental factors can also play a role, such as indoor air pollution, overcrowded living conditions, and second-hand smoke.
Pneumonia can be successfully treated with antibiotics and requires hospitalization only in very severe cases and in infants two months old or younger.
Pneumonia is an acute respiratory infection that causes the small sacs in the lungs, alveoli, to fill with pus and fluid, making it difficult and painful to take in oxygen. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi, the most common of which are Streptococcus pneumoniae (most common bacterial), Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib; second most common bacterial), and respiratory syncytial virus (most common virus). Among children living with HIV, Pneumocystis jirveci is the most common and accounts for at least 25-percent of deaths in HIV-positive infants.
Common symptoms of pneumonia include difficulty breathing, cough, fever, chills, loss of appetite, and wheezing. In severe cases, the lower chest wall often retracts during inhalation, rather than expanding, as it would in a healthy person. Infants may experience unconsciousness, hypothermia, and convulsions and may be unable to ingest food or drink. Pneumonia is found across the world, but is most common in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. It is the leading cause of death in children, accounting for approximately 18 percent of deaths in children younger than five years old, even though it is both preventable and treatable.
Information from World Health Organization
The most effective way to prevent pneumonia in children is immunization against Hib, pneumococcus, measles, and whooping cough. Steps and factors that strengthen a child’s immune system are also important in preventing pneumonia. Nutrition is key to a healthy immune system and breastfeeding for at least the first six months of life can help build up a child’s immune system early on.
It is also important to eliminate or minimize environmental risk factors, such as second-hand smoke and indoor pollution. For children living with HIV, the antibiotic cotrimoxazole can be taken daily to reduce the risk of infection.
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For nearly 30 years, a significant number of International Medical Corps’ responses have included technical assistance for the treatment and control of epidemic diseases. We work to help vulnerable communities prevent and respond to infectious diseases that have the potential to cross borders and become acute public health risks including: