India Has the Highest Burden of Pneumonia, Diarrhoea Child Deaths

On World Pneumonia Day, a new report analyses the burden of child deaths by the disease in India.

Health News
2 min read
Nearly half a million pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths still occurred in two countries – India and Nigeria.

India lost over 2.6 lakh children under five years from pneumonia and diarrhoea in 2016, reveals the Pneumonia Diarrhea Progress Report 2018, launched ahead of World Pneumonia Day. India continues to have the highest burden of pneumonia and diarrhoea child deaths in the world.

The yearly analysis by John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reviews progress and gaps in coverage of interventions to “protect against, prevent and treat” pneumonia and diarrhoea.

Even now, globally, pneumonia and diarrhoea caused nearly one of every four deaths in children under five years of age in 2016. Around 10.8 million children are on course to die from pneumonia by 2030, with those living in poverty most at risk.

There has been significant reductions in the diseases because of improvements in use of health interventions like vaccines. Despite this, nearly half a million pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths still occurred in two countries – India and Nigeria.

In India, the number of deaths of children under five years due to pneumonia in 2016 was 1,58,176, while diarrhoea deaths was 1,02,813.

The report showed that India’s vaccination coverage to prevent rotavirus infection, a leading cause of severe diarrhoea in young children, was the lowest among the 15 countries which introduced it last year.

The same goes for the pneumonia vaccine. Although India initiated a phased national introduction of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) in May 2017, no child had yet received the third dose when these data were reported. Thus, the estimated PCV3 coverage for India in 2017 as provided in this report is 0 percent.

The vaccine has been included in only six states to date. Scale up of the vaccine to all states should be undertaken. Across India, lower vaccine coverage was identified among female children in rural areas and in poor, urban areas.

Despite improvements to full immunisation coverage, the gender gap in coverage continues to exist, for example, in low-income areas of Delhi, 78 females were fully immunized for every 100 males fully immunized. Addressing these disparities can help reduce pneumonia and diarrhea burden.

Meanwhile, India’s neighboring country of Bangladesh experienced the largest positive change in a composite indicator of multiple interventions for control of pneumonia and diarrhoea.

India needs to make serious efforts towards vaccine coverage to include populations which are remote and impoverished.

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