Today is World Pneumonia Day, a day dedicated to raising public awareness of the nearly 1.6 million childhood pneumonia deaths that occur around the world each year. The lung infection is the most common cause of death in children younger than 5.
Pneumonia is far less risky than it used to be for children in the developed world: a course of antibiotics usually clears the infection. But kids in developing countries are not so lucky. Not only do they have poor access to antibiotics, they are also much more likely to live in conditions that foster pneumonia. A statement from the National Institutes of Health explains:
In many countries, inefficient, smoky, indoor stoves fueled by wood, charcoal, dung, or coal, are used widely for cooking and heating. The smoke from these indoor fires is a major contributor to childhood pneumonia in much of the world, undermining the vaccination drives and other public health efforts seeking to prevent and treat the disease.
Fortunately, international efforts to replace these inefficient stoves with inexpensive, clean alternatives are now under way. The United Nations Foundation has launched the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, which seeks to create a global market and manufacturing capability for clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels in the developing world. The NIH's role is to support the research that will determine the most efficient, cost effective solutions for this global problem, to safe guard human health.
To learn more about preventing childhood pneumonia, including ways you can help, visit the get involved page of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves' website or the activist toolkit at the World Pneumonia Day website.
Photo by Harsha K R