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16 November 2021 - News

World Pneumonia Day 2021: Save the Children Calls on Government and Partners to End Child Death from Pneumonia

  • At least one child dies every minute from pneumonia - a largely preventable and treatable disease - every day.[i]
  • More than 50% of children around the world are not fully protected with the Pneumococcal (PCV) vaccine.[ii]
  • Every year, an estimated 4.2 million children in low- and middle-income countries who have low levels of oxygen in their blood require urgent oxygen treatment to survive.[iii]
  • Almost a third of all pneumonia deaths are caused by air pollution.[iv] The climate crisis is a child rights crisis and poses a serious threat to children's health and well-being. It is an unprecedented threat to all children and young people.


ABUJA, 12 NOVEMBER 2021: On the occasion of World Pneumonia Day, Save the Children International is calling on the Nigerian Government and Partners to accelerate action towards ending child death from pneumonia, the largest infectious killer disease of children under the age of five.


With the theme: Pneumonia and Air Pollution, the World Pneumonia Day 2021 focuses on one of the greatest risk factors of pneumonia. According to the Global Burden of Disease survey (2019), air pollution is responsible for almost a third of all pneumonia deaths. Pneumonia is a disease of inequality and thousands of children die each day across the globe, from this preventable and treatable disease. These children are dying due to a combination of factors, which includes living in homes that regularly use polluting fuels for cooking, heating and lighting. This is the situation for many households and families in Nigeria.


Pneumonia can be treated if sick children have access to timely care. Sadly, for many children and their families, access to timely essential and life-saving treatments such as oxygen and antibiotics remains the difference between life and death.


Pneumonia must no longer be a “forgotten” epidemic.


Although one of the best tools to prevent pneumonia exists, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted immunization services, leaving millions of children at greater risk of missing out on critical vaccinations, such as Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV). Available data have shown that global vaccination rates have dropped to levels which have not been recorded in a decade, with 3.5 million more children not receiving vaccines at all in 2020, compared to 2019.


Mercy Gichuhi, Country Director, Save the Children International Nigeria, said“this year’s World Pneumonia Day reminds us of our collective responsibility to take action and confront one of the greatest threat to our existence. Air pollution is not only changing the environment; it is denying children the chance of celebrating their fifth birthday and we must not allow this to continue. We all must work together to protect the future, by ensuring that children born today survive their fifth birthday.”


With funding from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and the Pneumonia Centenary Commitment (PCC), Save the Children International through the INSPIRING project is testing approaches that works in preventing pneumonia deaths in Nigeria. We are supporting the Government of Nigeria to strengthen health systems capacity to appropriately detect and treat children with pneumonia, while expanding access to essential immunization services. We are mobilizing communities to encourage preventive and protective practices and timely care-seeking and to better understand the risk factors such as air pollution, that put children at risk of pneumonia,


“Our experience from the field has shown clear relationship between air pollution and pneumonia. This year’s World Pneumonia Day aptly reflects one of the reasons pneumonia continues to be the leading childhood infectious disease in Nigeria. To defeat pneumonia, we will need to confront the underlying factors such as air pollution and ensure families modify and change practices that expose children to indoor air pollution.” said Dr Adamu Isah, Chief of Party, INSPIRING Project, Save the Children International Nigeria.


On the occasion of this World Pneumonia Day, Save the Children International is calling on governments and partners to:


  • Strengthen and prioritize routine immunization, scaling up access to essential vaccines, including PCV, to ensure every child is protected.
  • Ensure everyone has access to life-saving oxygen when and where they need it, including children with pneumonia.
  • Take deliberate steps to ensure COVID-19 oxygen investments are used to improve basic oxygen access and use – so that no child is left fighting for breath.
  • Strengthen essential health & nutrition services and make the needed investment in primary healthcare to prevent thousands of children dying from preventable causes such as pneumonia.
  • Work together across health, air quality and climate communities to tackle the biggest infectious killer on the planet.  


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Notes to Editors:


About Save the Children

Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. In Nigeria and around the world, we work every day to give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn, and protection from harm. When crisis strikes and children are most vulnerable, we are always among the first to respond and the last to leave. We ensure children’s unique needs are met and their voices are heard. Save the Children delivers lasting results for millions of children, including those who are hardest to reach. We do whatever it takes for children – every day and in times of crisis – transforming their lives and the future that we share. Save the Children has been working in Nigeria since 2001, and is currently present in 13 States of the federation.


For More Information and/or Interview Arrangements, Please Contact: 

Kunle Olawoyin, Media and Communication Manager (Abuja), Email:  Mobile +234 (0) 802-368-4903 (Abuja), Or


Ibrahim Haruna, Social and Behaviour Change Communication and Media Coordinator (Jigawa), Email: Mobile: +234(0)8185593466, Save the Children International Nigeria. 

[i] WHO Maternal Child Epidemiology Estimation (WHO-MCEE) 2018.

[ii] WUENIC 2020 Revision (July 2021)

[iii] Estimate generated by Save the Children, UNICEF and CHAI with a panel of experts, based on published data on the proportion of hospitalized children with pneumonia who are diagnosed as hypoxemic, which we estimate to average 25% globally with significant variations by region. Further information available here:   

[iv] Global Burden of Disease Survey available here: and here: