670K kids die of pneumonia yearly

MORE than 670 000 children under the age of five die of pneumonia globally every year, a figure that has surpassed infectious diseases and conditions such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis annually.

Speaking on the sidelines of the annual world Pneumonia day on Saturday, Community Working Group on Health executive director, Itai Rusike said respiratory infections have increased and maternal and neonatal conditions remain a major driver of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs).

He said most of the infections contribute more to mortality, hence the need to strengthen the country’s health sector.

"Using this opportunity offered by World Pneumonia Day… The week-long commemoration of pneumonia awareness offers us an opportunity to identify all stakeholders for working together to quantify and begin to halt the pneumonia deaths in the under-fives in Zimbabwe," Rusike said.

"The health delivery system has in the past decade been on a marked decline in health services provision and the most vulnerable remain the children and their mothers who are major users of the health system.”

The top four causes of DALYs in Zimbabwe are respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, maternal and neonatal issues, and cardiovascular disease. 

Pneumonia in Zimbabwe as in other low income countries is caused by viruses, bacteria, especially streptococcus pneumonia, fungi, and pre-existing conditions such as malnutrition, HIV, measles, asthma, diabetes, among other underlying factors. 

Rusike said the majority of pneumonias in children are both preventable and manageable. 

He said environmental factors such as poor hygiene, poor water and sanitation, air pollution, (indoor and outdoor), cigarette smoke, also predispose to pneumonias in children. 

This year's theme was Fighting Pneumonia an Agenda for Action and commemorations were held in Goromonzi.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe yesterday joined the rest of the world to commemorate World Diabetes Day under the theme: Education to Protect Tomorrow.

Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association president Johannes Marisa said diabetes is one of the biggest contributors of mortality in Zimbabwe.

“Zimbabwe alone loses more than 3 000 people from diabetes every year, and some of these patients die from complications that can be averted.  Diabetic patients from remote areas face unbearable challenges such as unavailability of electricity to store medicines and lack of equipment to diagnose diabetes.

“For those with type 1 diabetes, they are dependent on insulin which is stored in refrigerators, which means we need refrigerators in rural areas.  Diagnostics are not available and it is rare to find glucometers or laboratories to run diabetes tests in remote areas,” Marisa said.

Zimbabwe is benefiting from on-going projects to curb diabetes through assistance of partners such as the International Diabetes Federation, Africa region and Santé Diabète.

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