‘It is overwhelmingly clear that, without a breakthrough on pneumonia, the 2030 goal of ending preventable child deaths will never be achieved.’

There was a landmark event for pneumonia last week: the inaugural Global Forum on Childhood Pneumonia, which took place in Barcelona.

Remarkably, even though pneumonia is the world’s biggest infectious killer of children, this was the first global event dedicated to pneumonia. It ran from 29 to 31 January 2020, and was co-hosted by Every Breath Counts, UNICEF, Save the Children, IS Global and the “la Caixa” Foundation.

With more than 350 participants from all the major organisations working on pneumonia, the Forum was a great first step in having a more coordinated and aligned global pneumonia response.

The Forum brought together health ministers and government representatives from 23 countries; many of the world’s leading paediatric consultants and epidemiology researchers; international agencies; donors including Global Fund, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Financing Facility/World Bank and Unitaid; and most of the main non-government organisations. The short video below gives a flavour of the Forum.

Important steps forward – and a declaration

While they were no large new funding commitments at the Forum, there were some good first steps, particularly from the national government participants who attended.

The Nigerian government used the event to launch one of Africa’s first Pneumonia Control Strategies, which Malaria Consortium was involved in drafting, and which other governments are now looking at replicating.

Indonesia announced at the conference that it would be introducing an immunisation programme for pneumonia control with support from Gavi, the global vaccine fund. The Spanish government pledged to step-up support for Gavi.

Several initiatives were announced that aim to strengthen diagnosis and treatment, including the launch of the Unitaid “Fever” project and The Serum Institute of India announced a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine that is 30% cheaper than the current alternative.

I was delighted to be given the opportunity to present an update on the research priorities exercise I am currently leading on as part of the Every Breath Counts group. The outcomes of this project will hopefully drive the pneumonia research agenda for the next 10 years.

The Forum ended with a Declaration and Call to Action, which included some important, concrete commitments. One of these commitments was that the Global Forum will be held annually.

Dr Kevin Baker is Research Advisor at Malaria Consortium and co-leads the Every Breath Counts Research Group.

Header photo credit: IS Global

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