Released ahead of World Pneumonia Day, November 12, the latest annual Pneumonia and Diarrhea Progress Report from the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) shows some bright spots in preventing child pneumonia and diarrhea deaths, but service disruptions due to COVID-19 may threaten decades of progress in reducing global child mortality.

Pneumonia and diarrhea kill more young children worldwide than any other infectious disease. Over 1.23 million children died of pneumonia and diarrhea before reaching their 5th birthday—the equivalent of over 141 child deaths per hour or 3,400 deaths per day.

“While the world focuses on new innovations in vaccines to respond to the COVID-19 epidemic, we cannot afford to lose sight of the millions of children who die from preventable diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea,” said Mathuram Santosham, MD, MPH, IVAC Senior Advisor and Professor in the Department of International Health. “These deaths are almost all preventable with vaccines and simple proven treatments that we already have available.”

For over 10 years, IVAC has published the annual Pneumonia and Diarrhea Progress Report to track country-led progress fighting childhood pneumonia and diarrhea in places struggling with the greatest burden of disease. The report tracks progress by analyzing 10 indicators based upon data related to key interventions—exclusive breastfeeding, immunization, care-seeking and antibiotics for pneumonia, oral rehydration solution (ORS), and zinc supplementation—shown to protect, prevent, and treat, and ultimately reduce pneumonia and diarrhea deaths.

Key takeaways from this year’s Pneumonia and Diarrhea Progress Report:

  • This year’s report finds that among the 15 high-burden countries examined, 9 failed to reach even one of the coverage targets set by the WHO and UNICEF as part of the Integrated Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhea (GAPPD) framework
  • Expansion of immunization, particularly rotavirus vaccine, was a leading driver of progress, although access to treatments for pneumonia and diarrhea remains limited across all 15 countries. Only 5 out of 15 countries met targets for exclusive breastfeeding, which can protect children by making them less vulnerable to pneumonia and diarrhea.
  • Work must continue with key stakeholders in vulnerable settings to advance country-level and regional progress to reduce this unacceptably high burden of preventable child mortality. Nationwide vaccine rollout is significant to not only improve child health but also to leverage immunization as a key health system strengthening activity.
  • Collecting high-quality data to reliably track progress remains an essential stepping-stone to monitor national and global gains. Further efforts are needed to examine subnational disparities so that programs can efficiently target communities which are suffering the most due to prevailing health inequities.
  • Ensuring universal access and the availability of oxygen and pulse oximetry as effective treatments is a goal which should be prioritized for providing care in low-resource settings.

Additional Resources:

Download the 2020 Pneumonia & Diarrhea Progress Report

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