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One Child Dies Of Pneumonia Every 39 Seconds: UNICEF

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Pneumonia claimed the lives of more than 800,000 children under the age of five last year, or one child every 39 seconds, according to a new analysis by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Most deaths occurred among children under the age of two, and almost 153,000 within the first month of life.

Sounding the alarm about this forgotten epidemic, six leading health and children's organizations launched an appeal for global action.

The organizations urged governments in the worst-affected countries to develop and implement Pneumonia Control Strategies to reduce child pneumonia deaths, and to improve access to primary health care as part of a wider strategy for universal health coverage.

They called on richer countries, international donors and private sector companies to boost immunization coverage by reducing the cost of key vaccines and ensuring the successful replenishment of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; and to increase funding for research and innovation to tackle pneumonia.

The group, consisting of ISGlobal, Save the Children, UNICEF, Every Breath Counts, Unitaid and "Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance" will host world leaders at the Global Forum on Childhood Pneumonia in Spain in January.

Pneumonia, which leaves children fighting for breath as their lungs are infected - kills more children than any other infection.

Millions of children are dying for want of vaccines, affordable antibiotics, and routine oxygen treatment, according to Kevin Watkins, Chief Executive of Save the Children.

The report noted that just five countries were responsible for more than half of child pneumonia deaths in the world. They are Nigeria (162,000), India (127,000), Pakistan (58,000), the Democratic Republic of Congo (40,000) and Ethiopia (32,000).

UNICEF says that Children with immune systems weakened by other infections like HIV or by malnutrition, and those living in areas with high levels of air pollution and unsafe water, are at far greater risk.

The disease can be prevented with vaccines, and easily treated with low-cost antibiotics if properly diagnosed.

But tens of millions of children are still not vaccinated - and one in three with symptoms do not receive essential medical care, the UN children's agency estimates.

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