First Ever World Health Assembly Resolution to Fight Childhood Pneumonia

For the first time ever, the World Health Assembly passed a resolution today focused on the prevention and treatment of pneumonia, the world's leading killer of children under five. This resolution, approved by a consensus, reflects the growing momentum to fight this treatable and preventable cause of suffering and illness.

"No child should suffer from a disease that is so easily prevented and treated," said Mary Beth Powers, chief of Save the Children’s Newborn and Child Survival campaign. "Yet, more than 1.5 million children each year die from this disease. With existing and affordable vaccines and antibiotics most of these lives could be saved. This resolution calls on countries to use these tools and outlines how doing so will save millions of young lives."

Jim Dobbin MP and Lord Avebury, co-chairs, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Global Action Against Childhood Pneumonia in the UK stated "We are delighted that the World Health Assembly (WHA) has approved the resolution on pneumonia. The successful passage of this resolution shows the vital commitment of WHA member states to the prevention, protection and treatment of pneumonia and will be of enormous help in combating the world's leading killer of children."

The resolution calls for collective action by policy makers, donor agencies and civil society to fight childhood pneumonia by accelerating access and delivery of proven pneumonia prevention and treatment interventions. The resolution calls for the implementation of the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia (GAPP) and estimates the recommended interventions — including vaccination against measles, pertussis, Hib and pneumococcal disease, treatment with antibiotics, and protective measures like breastfeeding and improvements in indoor air quality — could achieve a 67 percent reduction in pneumonia deaths by 2015.

"Today the world's health ministers deserve credit and praise. Their collective resolution to fight childhood pneumonia shows that the leading killer of children worldwide is preventable and treatable. Everyone should congratulate them for their leadership today and encourage them to follow through at home by making pneumonia a priority in their local programs," said Orin Levine, Executive Director of the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Awareness about the burden of pneumonia is growing and the WHA resolution will be an important boost for the many organizations around the world working to overcome the disease. The Global Coalition against Child Pneumonia, made up of nearly 100 influential organizations from around the globe, marked the first annual World Pneumonia Day in November 2009 with events in 39 countries on 6 continents. The next World Pneumonia Day will be on November 12, 2010.

About The Global Coalition against Child Pneumonia
The Global Coalition against Child Pneumonia and the World Pneumonia Day Coalition, were established in April 2009. They seek to bring focus on pneumonia as a public health issue and to prevent the millions of avoidable deaths from pneumonia that occur each year. The coalition is grounded in a network of international government, non-governmental and community‐based organizations, research and academic institutions, foundations, and individuals that have united to bring much‐needed attention to pneumonia among donors, policy makers, health care professionals, and the general public.

"It is clear that proven, low-cost interventions – such as vaccinations, better delivery and newborn care practices, treatment of common infections and investments in local health workers – are reducing the number of deaths of children," said Save the Children President and CEO Charles MacCormack.

"However, it is unacceptable that millions of children are still dying from preventable causes like pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria. Now more than ever, significant increases to the U.S. government's investment in newborn and child health and nutrition are needed to build upon successes and to sustain the delivery of these lifesaving programs."

Despite the overall reduction in child deaths, the rate of decline still doesn't match the annual 4.4 percent decline needed to meet Millennium Development Goal 4 of reducing deaths in children under age five by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015. Moreover, a third of child deaths are caused by just two easily treatable conditions, diarrhea or pneumonia, and at least 40 percent of children who die are newborn babies.

If fully funded, recent proposals by the Obama administration could have a major impact on the battle to save children's lives. The president's fiscal year 2011 budget would significantly increase the U.S. government's investment in maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition. Additionally, the administration's new Global Health Initiative would invest $63 billion over six years to help partner countries improve health outcomes through increased coverage of low-cost, proven interventions within the context of strengthened health systems, with a particular focus on improving the health of women, newborns and children.

"It is essential that Congress fully fund the President's proposed increase in the international affairs budget, and that the worthy effort to accelerate global improvements in maternal, newborn and child health remains intact," MacCormack said. "This new data on declining child mortality shows that we know how to use key health interventions to save lives. Funding such programs is the best way to demonstrate U.S. leadership in improving the lives of people in developing countries."
Save the Children also urges heads of state attending next month's G8 and G20 Summits in Canada to ensure more children's lives will be saved by adopting a robust maternal and child health initiative.