First Annual World Pneumonia Day Observed


Today is the first annual World Pneumonia Day. Almost 100 leading global health organizations from around the world have joined forces to use this day to urge governments to take steps to fight pneumonia, the world’s leading killer of young children.

A comprehensive action plan released by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF is outlined in the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia (GAPP). The goal is to save up to 5.3 million children from dying of pneumonia by 2015.

Pneumonia is the biggest cause of child deaths in the world, killing 1.8 million children under five years of age every year. More children die of pneumonia than any other illness. More than 98% of the pneumonia deaths occur in 68 developing countries. Few resources have been dedicated to tackling this child killer.

WHO an UNICEF have developed the Global Action Plan for the prevention and control of Pneumonia (GAPP) in an effort to increase awareness of pneumonia as a major cause of child death and spur action to deal more effectively with the problem.


GAPP includes recommendations on what needs to be done, specific goals and targets, and estimates of what it will cost and how many lives will be saved. Its aim is to increase awareness of pneumonia as a major cause of child deaths, and it calls on global and national policy-makers, donor agencies and civil society to take immediate action to implement the plan.

"Pneumonia is the leading cause of under age five mortality, killing over 4 000 children every day," said UNICEF Executive Director, Ann M. Veneman. "Effective interventions to reduce deaths caused by pneumonia must be used more widely and made more readily available for children at risk."

GAPP has a three-pronged vision:

  • Protecting every child by providing an environment where they are at low risk of pneumonia (with exclusive breastfeeding for six months, adequate nutrition, preventing low-birth-weight, reducing indoor air pollution, and increasing hand washing);
  • Preventing children from becoming ill with pneumonia (with vaccination against its causes: measles, pertussis, Streptococcus pneumonia and Haemophilus influenzae b, as well as preventing and treating HIV in children, and providing zinc for children with diarrhea);
  • Treating children who become ill with pneumonia with the right care and antibiotics (in communities, health centers and hospitals).

The cost of implementing the GAPP by scaling up the recommended measures in the 68 high burden countries is estimated at US$ 39 billion for 2010-2015. The costs are expected to double over the six-year period, rising from an annual need of US$ 3.8 billion in 2010 to US$ 8.0 billion by 2015.

Specific targets and goals to be reached by 2015 under the GAPP strategy are to expand coverage of all relevant vaccines and exclusive breastfeeding rates to 90%, and raise the level of access to appropriate pneumonia case management to 90%. This will lead to a reduction in child pneumonia deaths by 65% and cutting the number of severe pneumonia cases in children by 25%, compared to 2000 levels.

World Health Organization (WHO) News Release