Pneumonia rife in city’s overcrowded slums

Written By Unknown on Jumat, 12 April 2013 | 22.23

MUMBAI: Paediatrician Dr Deepak Ugra, who was the former head of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics, said pneumonia is the biggest killer of Indian children. "There would be a higher incidence in Mumbai's slum children because they live in overcrowded and unhygienic surroundings," he said.

Of course, these grim statistics are quite lower than they were two decades ago. In 2011, globally, around 7 million children younger than 5 years died from preventable causes while the corresponding toll 20 years ago was 12 million. In India, under-five mortality fell from 100 children dying for every 1,000 live births in 1995 to 60 deaths in 2010.

But the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF have announced the Integrated Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (GAPPD) to reduce the existing death rates drastically by 2025.

"If we commit to ensuring that 80% of the world's children have access to targetted interventions, and if we immunize 90% of children, we will almost eliminate deaths from diarrhoea, and eliminate two-thirds of all deaths from pneumonia by 2025," said the WHO statement.

The Lancet report said these leading causes of deaths in children under 5 could be eliminated in 20 years if joints steps were taken across the world. Basically, the WHO action plan is on the lines of public campaigns to eliminate ailments such as small pox, vitamin-deficiency diseases like blindness and bone diseases.

Dr RS Ghosh, director of NGO PATH, which is working with the Indian government to reduce diarrhoeal deaths, said the WHO roadmap has 15 points to reduce deaths, including access to medicines and vaccines as well as better sanitation and access to healthcare.

"The public health community across the globe had been waiting for such an agenda from WHO to reduce deaths caused by diarrhoea and pneumonia. We will work with the Indian government to achieve this goal," he added.

Rathod of JJ Hospital, however, is not sure if vaccines will be the solution though. "Vaccines are available for a few of the pathogens that cause pneumonia, but not all. So the best strategy for pneumonia would be to detect and treat early," he said.

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