Do you know what infectious disease claims the lives of the most children under age five around the world?
Surprised to learn that? I definitely was.
Around the globe, two children die from pneumonia every minute. Every. Minute. That’s more than 100 little ones lost each hour.
That statistic is not only a tragic and enormous loss of life, it also represents a staggering number of grieving mothers.
The reality those mothers live is my nightmare.
Their pain must be compounded by the fact that pneumonia is one of the most solvable problems in global health. That’s another fact I was surprised to learn.
The biggest cause of fatal pneumonia in childhood can be stopped by a vaccine developed to protect against the most common strains of pneumococcal bacteria.
It’s the life-saving vaccine the world has never heard of, and that is precisely why World Pneumonia Day is needed. It’s today, November 12, and has been observed since 2009, when more than 100 organizations joined forces to create the Global Coalition against Child Pneumonia.
World Pneumonia Day is a reminder of both the battle against pneumonia and the fact that we can win it.
Ending the loss of life and suffering is simply a matter of getting the vaccines to the kids who need them. Pneumonia killed nearly 1 million children in 2013. The vast majority of these deaths occur in developing countries, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Underprivileged children in poverty face the highest risk.
While most healthy children can fight an infection from pneumococcal bacterium with their natural defenses, children whose immune systems are compromised by malnutrition, and other factors common in developing countries, face a higher risk of developing pneumonia from the infection.
Precious little ones dying from something that’s preventable makes your heart hurt for them and their mothers. I find the sadness overwhelming, but what makes me feel better is taking action.
The reality is that you have the ability to make a difference. Here’s what you can do this World Pneumonia Day: Let your lawmakers know that you care about healthy kids, both your own and those around the globe. Tell them that you stand in solidarity with mothers in developing nations who want the same thing you want—to see their children grow up and grow up healthy. Reach out to your representatives and say “Hey, it’s World Pneumonia Day, and I’m not okay with the number of babies dying around the world when we can do something to stop it.” (If you’re in the U.S., you can find contact information for your Senator here and your House Representative here.)
Support organizations that work to get vaccines where they are needed, such as Shot@Life. Shot@Life advocates to the U.S. government for support of global childhood immunizations, including funding for Gavi — the world’s largest supplier of pneumococcal vaccines to developing countries.
Tell someone else about World Pneumonia Day. Knowledge is power. Share the knowledge that the world’s leading killer of children under the age of five is pneumonia, and this vaccine-preventable disease can be stopped.
Shannan lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and teen daughter. She's a recovery attorney who now blogs at BetweenUsParents.com, ChicagoNow, and as part of the Chicago Parent Blogger Network. Her writing has appeared on the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop, Scary Mommy, BonBon Break, Brain Child and In the Powder Room, and her essays have been included in two anthologies by The HerStories Project. She is also freelance writer for regional magazines. Shannan was in the 2013 cast of Listen to Your Mother, despite the fact that her daughter often fails to do so.
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