Malaria Consortium attends the 2nd Global Forum on Childhood Pneumonia held today and yesterday in Madrid to lend its voice in galvanising action and seek new and ambitious commitments to accelerate the introduction and scale up of lifesaving interventions needed to reduce child pneumonia deaths to the levels required to achieve both the Global Action Plan for Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (GAPPD) target and the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) for child survival.
The event, co-hosted by Every Breath Counts – the first public-private partnership to support national governments to end preventable child pneumonia deaths by 2030 – convenes health ministry officials from countries with high burdens of childhood pneumonia alongside World Health Organization delegates, donor governments and representatives from the public, private and academic sector and is an opportunity to check progress made against the specific government actions agreed in the first Global Forum’s Declaration in 2020.
Pneumonia – a preventable and treatable illnesses – is the leading infectious cause of death in children globally, responsible for more than 700,000 child deaths annually. Under-five mortality rates are highest in the sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region, with respiratory and acute diarrhoeal infections among the most common reasons for children attending health facilities or providers. Most deaths caused by pneumonia are the result of inequitable access to healthcare and resources and a failure to provide vaccinations and diagnosis.
Despite the high burden of childhood pneumonia, research into the disease has been chronically underfunded. In response, the Every Breath Counts Research Group, led by Malaria Consortium, undertook a research prioritisation exercise with more than 100 pneumonia experts to identify the top 20 paediatric pneumonia research priorities with the potential to accelerate reductions in child pneumonia deaths. The exercise identified that operational research on health system capacity and evaluations of optimised delivery of existing treatments, diagnostics and case management approaches are much needed.
Crucially, stronger links between research and implementation and research and evidence will be most effective when linked to national pneumonia action plans informed and directed by national governments. Following the development and endorsement of a national childhood pneumonia strategy (PCS) in Nigeria, both Chad and Ethiopia, countries where pneumonia is among the leading cause of death in children under five, have sought to develop their own action plans to reduce the burden.
"We're committed to ending preventable child deaths and, here at the global forum, we've been continuing the important conversations with ministries of health in Chad and Ethiopia about next steps to bring down the number of children dying from pneumonia. Following our support in developing their pneumonia control strategies, we're looking ahead to putting these plans in action and will support Chad with their application to Gavi to introduce pneumococcal conjugate vaccine and rotavirus. We're also discussing how to work with health officials in Ethiopia to support child survival through the integrated management of newborn and childhood illnesses action plan" said Dickson Awah, Malaria Consortium Chad Country Director, attending the event.
Malaria Consortium assisted Chad and Ethiopia’s respective ministries of health to identify potential barriers and opportunities for strengthening the pneumonia response, conducting formative research, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with child health experts and representatives from academic and leading non-governmental, focusing on an integrated approach to address the disease. were used to identify weaknesses in supply and demand systems and define priorities for the development of Chad and Ethiopia’s respective pneumonia control strategies.
"Pneumonia is a disease that kills many children under five in Chad. Until now, there has been no national pneumonia control strategy. This project is welcome because it will help to reduce mortality from this disease. It is important to work together in the fight against pneumonia at the community level,” said Dr Toralta Nodjitoloum Joséphine, Former Deputy Director of the Direction of Sexual and Reproductive Health, Chad.
Building on the findings of the formative assessments in Chad and Ethiopia and in line with the countries’ respective integrated health goals of national pneumonia prevention policies, the ministries of health have developed national policies outlining the major objectives and corresponding activities to address implementation and resource gaps for pneumonia and diarrhoea. With the support of ministries, civil society groups, donors, the private sector and implementing partners including Malaria Consortium, the operationalisation of these plans can save children's lives and improve child health outcomes in both Chad and Ethiopia.
“Pneumonia and diarrhoea control is central to achieving universal health coverage and meeting the Sustainable Development Goals in Ethiopia. It is imperative to effectively implement the packages of evidence-based interventions articulated within the Action Plan and plan for protecting and preventing diseases in children, with a focus on underserved and vulnerable communities” commented Meseret Zelalem Tadesse, MD, Paediatrician and Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Lead Executive Officer at Ethiopia’s Federal Ministry of Health.
The action plans are expected to be published by each country later this year.
The Final Declaration from the forum, including all country commitments, will be published later this year.