HAPPY PNEUMONIA DAY! (Not Really…)
November 12th is World Pneumonia Day! This is an effort to create more awareness and understanding about how this terrible disease is the number 1 Infectious killer of children under 5 years of age. Here are a couple of my experiences of working in the field with children in developing countries:
This Summer I was in the mountains of Sierra de Mixtla of Altamirano, Veracruz to work and volunteer in Texiquila with children that live in the top of the mountains, far away from any cities and medical facilities. These children are smart, eager to learn and have many dreams and hopes for their futures. The sad part was seeing the poverty and living conditions where they lived, lacking basic foods and care while growing up in unsanitary conditions and poor nutrition. While most healthy children can fight an infection with their natural defenses, children in poor countries - like these - are at a higher risk for developing many childhood diseases like diarrhea, measles and pneumonia. These kids have immune systems that are easily compromised and weakened by malnutrition and undernourishment and live too far away from access to adequate medical care and proper health facilities when needed.
Talking to the parents of these children, I learned that in a day’s work - from dawn to dusk – most of them earn only the equivalent of $8.00 to $10.00! Their financial poverty is yet another disease afflicting them and their families - and severely limiting their children’s future prospects.
While there, I shared meals with them. Because I was a guest and benefactor they prepared the best meals they had... bean tacos! Bean tacos! BEAN TACOS! (All the containers on the table in the picture are filled only with bean tacos. There’s absolutely no variety among them!) We also dined with some chili, water and a corn-mix drink; but mostly bean tacos. I felt humbled for the honor and grateful for the experience!
However, by the end of the week I was very sick with diarrhea and had to go to the hospital. The closest one was 4 hours from the mountains where I received treatment and antibiotics. I was dehydrated and sick for the whole week afterward! Luckily I had the resources and money to pay for proper medical care and I knew what to do.
Sadly, for many mothers there – and in other poor countries – they can only helplessly watch their children struggle with diarrhea, fever and pneumonia while gasping for air. It is terrifying for them to not know how serious or urgent their condition is upon being forced to witness such suffering. In these circumstances a mother only knows that her child needs care and urgent attention, but doesn’t have the money or transportation needed for travel to the nearest clinic or to pay for a doctor.
Here are some of the children I am talking about in my blog:
Children like these in Mubende, Uganda
Children like these in the Railway School in Kampala, Uganda
Children in Texiquila, Mixtla the Altamirano, Veracruz, Mexico
Shockingly, pneumonia kills more children under the age of five than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Pneumonia is the leading cause of preventable child deaths in the world, killing 1.3 million children a year. The mayority of these deaths occur in developing countries which are among the poorest and in the most difficult-to-reach areas of the world. The pneumococcal vaccine is an easy way to prevent pneumonia in these children and only costs $5.00 for one dose. You can fully protect a child for $10.00.
On September 26-28, world leaders visited New York City for the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit. They decided upon 17 Global Goals, committing to end poverty and inequality and tackling climate change by 2030. We must tackle pneumonia as a part Goal Number 3: “Good Health and Well-Being”.
A total of 47 million children have received the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine since the first Gavi-supported introduction in 2010. Yet, there is still more to be done. The U.S. government has strongly supported global health programs, but we must be vigilant and continue our efforts.
We need your help and support to decrease child mortality by:
- Donating money to fully immunize a child. $10.00 will fully protect one (1) child against pneumonia. (You can save as many you’d like!)
- Helping to expand access to vaccines for children in developing countries.
- Meet with your members of Congress and ask them to support global health.
- Providing good nutrition and sanitation practices for all children, world-wide.
- Helping to promote & provide easy access to medical treatment as needed.
- Training health workers to diagnose and treat the disease