HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: Despite being one of the global health’s most solvable problems, pneumonia still remains the leading cause of death among under-five children, said health experts on the occasion of World Pneumonia Day today.
Though it can be readily prevented by immunisation, adequate nutrition and by addressing environmental factors, pneumonia is the leading killer of young children around the world, causing approximately 20 per cent of all child deaths, said Dr Dhana Raj Aryal, chief consultant paediatrician at Paropakar Maternity Hospital.
According to him, one in every 22 Nepali children die before reaching one year of age and one in every 19 die before their fifth birthday.
World Pneumonia Day is marked on November 12 every year to raise awareness on pneumonia as a public health issue and prevent the millions of avoidable child deaths from pneumonia that occur each year. According to Nepal Demographic Health Survey (NDHS)-2011, five per cent of children under-five years of age exhibited symptoms of acute respiratory infections (ARI). Children aged 6-23 months are more vulnerable to ARI (eight per cent) than other children.
Of the 35,000 under-five child deaths in the country, 5,600 die of pneumonia every year, Dr Aryal said, adding that though antibiotic could easily treat the disease, only 30 per cent children had access to the medicine.
Meanwhile, Dr Purusottam Raj Sedhain, senior medical officer at Child Health Division, said the government was working to reduce the disease burden and to protect more children from the disease.
Although the country has witnessed a decline in infant and child mortality, the neonate mortality is still the same as of NDHS 2006 data, said Sedhain. According to NDHS-2011, the infant mortality rate is 46 deaths per 1,000 live births.
However, only two deaths below the infant mortality were reported for the five-year period before the survey in 2006. Under-five mortality rate is 54 deaths per 1,000 live births, down from 61 deaths per 1,000 in 2006, according to the survey.
The neonatal mortality rate in the past five year is 33 deaths per 1,000 live births. “Exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of life can also protect children from the disease,” said Sedhain.