It, along with Nigeria, continues to have low coverage levels for prevention and treatment interventions

India continues to have the highest pneumonia and diarrhoeal disease burden in the world, losing 4,00,000 children to these preventable diseases before they turn five, the latest report has revealed. Many more suffer from severe illness.

The Pneumonia and Diarrhoea Progress Report 2013, published by the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says many Indian children do not have access to life-saving treatment and prevention measures.

In the Pneumonia Progress Report 2012, India topped the list of countries with the most child deaths. While the country has made some progress in coverage of pneumonia interventions since last year’s report and is poised to protect more children from both diseases with the upcoming national scale-up of pentavalent vaccine and the promise of an indigenous rotavirus vaccine — the coverage remains below targeted levels.

In 2012, India’s coverage of pertussis measles was 72 per cent and of measles, 74. Its percentage of exclusive breastfeeding for six months was 46. India lost 436 children below five years per 1000 livebirths in 2013 due to pneumonia and diarrhoea.

These diseases continue to be the leading killers of children under 5 worldwide. According to the latest estimates by the United Nations Children’s Fund, pneumonia and diarrhoea together claimed the lives of more than 1.7 million children below five years in 2012 alone.

This year, the Integrated Global Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (GAPPD) was developed and issued by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, outlining key universal interventions, with the goal of ending mortality in children by 2025. GAPPD set forth coverage targets of 90 per cent for vaccinations, and for access to pneumonia and diarrhoea treatment, and 50 per cent for exclusive breastfeeding of children during their first six months.

The 2013 report evaluates the 15 countries with the highest absolute number of child deaths from pneumonia and diarrhoea. India and Nigeria, with the largest disease burdens, continue to have low coverage levels for prevention and treatment interventions, resulting in their having the lowest GAPPD scores — which are calculated averages of countries’ coverage rates for key GAPPD interventions. India did not meet any of the nine GAPPD coverage targets evaluated in the 2013 report.

“There are simple, low-cost solutions such as washing hands with soap, controlling indoor air pollution, encouraging exclusive breast feeding, oral rehydration solution and zinc supplementation; administering vaccines and increasing access to treatment that can save children’s lives,” said Naveen Thacker, secretary, Child Health Foundation, and former president of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics.

  • India lost 436 children under 5 per 1,000 livebirths in 2013

  • Washing hands with soap, controlling indoor air pollution, encouraging exclusive breast feeding are simple solutions