Pneumonia - The Forgotten Epidemic

Pneumonia kills more children globally than any other disease.  

Young baby with pneumonia

One child dies from Pneumonia every 39 seconds

Doctor treating a young child with pneumonia

In July 2019 Edward’s mum Catherine got worried when she noticed he was having difficulty breathing.

He was rushed to hospital, where he was diagnosed with severe pneumonia.

Edward aged 8 in a UK hospital with pneumonia

Doctors took an x-ray of Edward’s chest...

... which revealed that his lung had completely collapsed.

Edward in a UK hospital recovering from pneumonia

“He woke up in the night gasping for breath. He was making a sound I’d never heard him make before. It was really scary,” said Catherine.

Edward spent two weeks in hospital, where he was given antibiotics and breathing support. He was also given physiotherapy to help clear his lungs. He has now recovered but still suffers from fatigue.

“I knew people were hospitalised for pneumonia but I thought it was only really old people. I had no idea it could be so dangerous for young children. I was surprised how severely ill it made him,” said Catherine.

Edward recovering from pneumonia

In England, 6 children like Edward are admitted to hospital with pneumonia every hour

Edward with his mum

Luckily, as a result of access to health services and vaccination

most children in England are saved.

This isn't always the case.

Edward and his mother after recovering from pneumonia

For children suffering with pneumonia, it's a lonely battle. Their lungs stop working filling up with fluid until every gasping breath becomes agony. Many die from exhaustion - their fragile bodies too shattered to fight any more.

Children living in areas with high levels of air pollution are at far greater risk of developing the disease.

Often the most affected are the poorest and most vulnerable children, where conditions like diarrhoea and malnutrition can leave them at a greater risk of contracting pneumonia

Pneumonia is preventable with the correct vaccinations, and can easily be treated with antibiotics if it is properly diagnosed.

But, despite the UK's leading role in improving access to vaccines and health services, on a global basis tens of millions of children are still not vaccinated around the world- and one in three with symptoms do not receive essential medical care.

Children with severe cases of pneumonia may also require oxygen treatment, which is rarely available in the poorest countries to the children who need it.

Young boy, Edward* suffering from pneumonia in the UK
Luc* a young child in Democratic Republic of Congo, recovering from pneumonia

"My child, Luc*, started to get ill on Friday"

19month old Luc* with his mother in Democratic Republic of Congo

"When I saw my son, the state that he was in, it really broke my heart"

Luc* and his mother in a Save the Children supported hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Luc* being treated for severe pneumonia

Luc* was just 19 months old when his mother, Makenda* took him to a Save the Children supported hospital in the Makota region in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He had been very ill five days before his mother brought him to hospital.

"We started to treat him at home in the neighborhood health centre. They found that he was suffering from a cough and I thought it was better to bring him to a big hospital for treatment," his mother said.

"I arrived and I showed them that my child is weak and (I said) please give blood to my son, I see he is pale."

When Luc* was brought into the hospital for treatment he was comatose, could not breathe properly and wasn't able to eat.

He was put on oxygen and was given a blood transfusion as well as intravenous anitobiotics

Luc* is treated with antibiotics by doctors at a Save the Children supported hostpital

Now after treatment Luc* is beginning to recover

He is now able to eat and even to drink his therapeutic milk alone

If he had stayed at home for longer, he could have died.

Mother and Luc* at the general hospital in Democratic Republic of Congo
Umera Bibi, 8 months, is seen with her mother, Sufiya Khatun, 30 years old at the Save The Children hospital.

Pneumonia is a treatable disease.

We know how to prevent and treat it.

We are working to scale up our programmes on the ground and are also joining forces with partners to get life-saving vaccines and antibiotics to children.

We're also calling on governments to ensure all children have access to healthcare, regardless of where they are. We can't fight this alone.

This is a forgotten global epidemic that demands an urgent international response.