By Andy Chukwu
Save the Children, a leading child rights organisation, has revealed that Nigeria has the highest number of pneumonia deaths globally with the disease claimed the lives of 162,000 Nigerian children under the age of five in 2018.
It said the high rate of child deaths from pneumonia in Nigeria is a violation of the right of children to survival and development.
Florence Otedola, popularly called DJ Cuppy, the Country Ambassador and Board member of Save the Children stated this during a media briefing ahead of the World Pneumonia Day on Tuesday.
The World Pneumonia Day is observed every November 12 to raise awareness about one of the most infectious killers of infants worldwide, killing nearly 2,500 children daily.
Pneumonia is essentially caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi, leaving children fighting for breath as their lungs fill with pus and fluid.
While most deaths resulting from Pneumonia occur in developing countries and about three-quarters take place in just 15 countries, more than half of the world’s annual incident cases occur in Nigeria and four other countries.
This means, in every three minutes, a Nigerian child suffocates from the infectious disease.
It also means the disease now snuffs life out of under-five children in Nigeria more than any other child killers like HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Measles, Tuberculosis put together.
Ms Otedola said Nigeria is not paying enough attention to the threat posed by pneumonia, thereby allowing the silent killer to prevail.
“I feel very strongly that this disease is a violation of children’s rights and development as enshrined in the UN Convention on the rights of the child. Yet pneumonia has been largely forgotten on global and national health agenda. We can and must change this,” she noted.
She said her foundation, DJ Cuppy Foundation, is partnering with Save the Children to raise funds for providing solutions that would ensure no child in Nigeria “suffers from the devastating blow of this disease.”
DJ Cuppy’s billionaire father, Mr Femi Otedola, donated N5 billion to the Cuppy Foundation for pneumonia interventions among other philanthropic projects in the health sector.
Ms Otedola said the money will be provided for Save the Children in order to help their work in Nigeria.
“We need to ensure that certain programmes such as pneumonia projects are promoted and elevated.
“There are innovations that could save hundreds of thousands of lives each year – from new vaccines to antibiotics and oxygen provision – if they are made accessible to children with the greatest need.
“We will be failing as parents and as citizens by not making fast and fair progress toward addressing the number of Nigerian children dying from pneumonia.”
In his remark, Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children UK, explained that three in four children suffering from pneumonia symptoms in Nigeria do not get access to medical treatment.
He urged the Nigerian government to urgently commit new resources to tackle the deadly disease.
Save the Children International is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) and has been operating in Nigeria since 2001, championing health interventions such as vaccination.