World Pneumonia Day was observed yesterday, with a grim reminder coming from UNICEF of the toll the disease takes on child health despite being preventable. Globally, a child is killed by the disease every 39 seconds. In India, one child dies due to pneumonia every two minutes with the country leading the world in pneumonia cases – to the significant detriment of the wellbeing of its children. Pneumonia is responsible for 15.9 percent of all child deaths in the country.
Banerjee tweeted “pneumonia is one of the leading infectious killers of children under the age of five. Our government…is fully committed to combating pneumonia and other common, yet often deadly, childhood diseases.”
Political leadership is vitally needed in the fight against pneumonia. More than 25 million were not vaccinated against it in 2016. The following year, the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) was included in the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) with subsequent plans for a national rollout. Earlier this year, an intensified immunisation programme was announced which would include PCV in endemic areas. Such efforts need to be made at the state and central levels to ensure that the vaccine is administered to children, so that preventable deaths due to the condition can be averted and the lives of thousands of children nationwide can be saved.
Banerjee expressing her government’s resolve to address the burden of pneumonia in West Bengal is a necessary and welcome proclamation. It is incumbent upon all policymakers and stakeholders across India, at the state and central levels, to ensure that the lives of children are not needlessly lost to a preventable disease.