Report says West African country has highest number of air pollution-related child pneumonia deaths in the world
At the end of the day, not less than 185 children under the age of five die may have died from pneumonia caused by air pollution in Nigeria, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has reported.
Citing findings from Global Burden of Disease (GBD 2019), the UN agency said Pollution-related pneumonia is killing more children in Nigeria than anywhere else in the world.
The UNICEF statement released to coincide with the 2021 World Pneumonia pointed out air pollution especially in the home, as the biggest driver of under-five child deaths from pneumonia in Nigeria.
Citing data from the GBD 2019, the UNICEF stated that in 17 countries across Africa, air pollution contributes to more than 50 per cent of pneumonia deaths. Most of these deaths are among children and due to household air pollution – though deaths from outdoor air pollution are rising, according to the GBD.
In Nigeria, it pointed out that 78 per cent of air pollution-related pneumonia deaths are among children under-five, the highest proportion worldwide. .
It stated that deaths of Nigerian children under-five due to overall air pollution-related pneumonia were 67,416 in 2019 while deaths of Nigerian children under-five due to household-specific air pollution-related pneumonia were 49,591 during the same year.
According to the report titled ‘The Every Breath Counts Air Pollution and Pneumonia Scorecard 2021, released on November 12: Air pollution contributed to 30 per cent (749,200) of all pneumonia deaths in 2019; 56 per cent (422,800) from household and 44 per cent (326,400) from outdoor sources
40 per cent (304,200) of air pollution-related pneumonia deaths are among children under five years; 70 per cent (210,400) from household air pollution
40 low- and middle-income countries, including Nigeria, are home to 90 per cent (656,400) of all air pollution-related pneumonia deaths
India tops the charts with the highest number of overall air pollution-related deaths in the world, with Nigeria coming second.
“Almost 185 children under the age of five die every day from pneumonia due to air pollution in Nigeria, majority of them from air pollution in the household, including that from cooking over open fires or cookstoves in the home,” Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria said.
According to him, “This is a travesty for their families and for Nigeria, especially because the vast majority of these deaths are preventable.”
“It is critical that the government introduce policies to reduce the major causes of air pollution-related pneumonia deaths among Nigerians, especially children, who bear the biggest burden,” Peter Hawkins said.
Giving suggestions on how to achieve significant reduction in air pollution-related pneumonia in Nigeria, the UNICEF Country Representative said, “One of the important ways we can do this is to increase the proportion of Nigerian households with access to clean cooking fuels and technologies, by increasing the use of LPG gas for cooking and helping families finance the cost of clean stoves and fuels.”
“We must also scale up services to diagnose and treat pneumonia, and improve nutrition, vaccine coverage and breastfeeding rates – all of which improve children’s health and immune systems, reducing the risk of children dying from pneumonia if they do contract it.
Pneumonia, caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi leaves children fighting for breath as their lungs fill with pus and fluid. It is the leading killer of children in Nigeria, causing 17 percent of under-five deaths.
According to UNICEF, most pneumonia deaths can be prevented with vaccines and treated with low-cost antibiotics. But more than 43 percent of one-year-olds in Nigeria are not vaccinated with the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), and one in four Nigerian children suffering from pneumonia symptoms do not get access to medical treatment.