Pneumonia, leading cause of under-five morbidity and mortality in Ghana

Pneumonia has been rated as the leading cause of under-five morbidity and mortality in Ghana, with an upsetting annual death toll record of 16,200 children, representing 20 per cent deaths per year.

Globally more than two million children under five years die from pneumonia annually with a child dying every 20 seconds.

The disease, which affects the lungs as a result of bacterial, viral or fungal infections, presents symptoms in the form of cough, fever and can make breathing difficult for patients and causes needless suffering and stress on both patients and their families.

Professor Bamenla Goka, a Consultant Paediatrician at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, presenting facts on the disease at a press launch in Accra on Wednesday, confirmed that three deaths occurred ever minute as a result of pneumonia.

The programme was to brief the media on the current status of the disease in the country and significance of the commemoration of World Pneumonia Day, which falls on Friday, November 12 under the theme; “Fight Pneumonia. Save a Child”.

Prof. Goka explained that the celebration would help create greater awareness for collective action by policy makers, donor agencies and civil society to fight childhood pneumonia through accelerated access and delivery of proven case prevention and treatment.

She said Korle-bu Teaching Hospital Child Health Unit recorded about 510 cases of pneumonia each year, adding that 32 per cent of children who die from the disease are a month old.

Prof. Goka said the under-five mortality in Ghana currently stood at 80 per 1,000 live births and fighting pneumonia was a critical strategy for the country to attain the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, particularly reducing under-five deaths by two-thirds to reach at least 40 per 1,000 live births.

However, she noted that in spite of the devastating and overwhelming death toll, pneumonia was rarely mentioned in the mass media and stressed that early detection of symptoms, diagnosis and treatment was critical to determining the survival rate of patients.

Prof. Goka stressed that preventing pneumonia before it occurred was of paramount importance as vaccines were safe and effective tool for preventing the disease.

She said such interventions as exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of life, ensuring good nutrition for older children and hand washing could prevent transfer of infection.

Prof. Goka stressed the need to reduce outdoor air pollution from cooking stoves and tobacco smoke and improving pre-natal care for expectant mothers to prevent low birth weight which predisposes such babies earlier on to pneumonia.

She called on stakeholder to support the introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine in Ghana’s Expanded Programme on Immunisation  and high immunisation coverage.

Prof. Goka advocated free registration of children under five years under the National Health Insurance Scheme to help increase access to health care services.

Dr Isabella Sagoe-Moses, National Child Health Coordinator of Ghana Health Service, said it was estimated that the lives of more than one million children could be saved annually with widespread use of vaccines and improved access to antibiotics.

She stressed that instituting the recommended interventions, which included vaccinations, prevention and management of HIV and providing zinc supplements to malnourished children among other interventions could help achieve over 65 per cent reduction in pneumonia deaths by 2015.

Source: GNA

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