By Tobias Lengnan Dapam

As the world marked pneumonia day, on Friday, children in Government Junior Secondary School Gwagwalada, a suburb in the nation’s capital have called on government at all levels to provide and equip health facilities in various schools to tackle pneumonia.

The children who spoke to our Correspondent to mark the World Pneumonia Day, expressed worry over the challenges faced by children.

They also advocated for pneumonia prevention kids for children with disabilities.

The children who are members of Child Advocacy Club set up by Save the Children International (SCI), Nigeria, said there was need for government to to take necessary steps to protect children from diseases.

Speaking, a member of the club,
Akabuakwu Chidiomimi Winner, a JSS 2A student, said they have been carrying out various advocacies at school and outside school to educate their peers and parents on the need for pneumonia prevention.

She said the club by SCI has equipped them with knowledge to be champions of advocacies for children.

“But our advocacy message in schools will not be effective if government does not provide the necessary equipment needed to help us. We want a safe environment for all children. We also want the government to help us achieve that.”

Also speaking, another member of the club, Marvelous Edeh, JSS 2E said, “We are also advocating for the less privileged. Government at all levels should build more health centers and create awareness of pneumonia on the social media.

“On my part, I have also been campaigning to ensure that people wash their hands regularly and eat balanced diet such as; fruits, vegetables and also drink a lot of water.

“My message to all parents is to keep their environment clean. Government should also build more health centers and provide water, soap and sanitizer to all schools.”

On her part, the Principal of Junior Secondary School, Gwagwalada, Mrs Florence Okonkwo, said the school has been carrying out a lot of sensitization against pneumonia.

She added that the school has gender assembly where issues relating to girls are discussed.

On the facilities available in the school, she said, “We have our health Centre which is well equipped by the FCT administration and we encourage the students to wash their hands regularly and maintain physical hygiene.

“Though, the facilities are not enough for the children considering the population we have in the school, we want the government to expand the health care Centre and employ certified trained nurses and doctors so that they can attend to the children whenever they have issues.

“I commend the Save the Children International for their efforts towards curbing pneumonia. They are really doing well and so far, there has been a lot of improvement since my assumption.”

Also, a teacher and facilitator of child advocacy club, Mr Emmanuel Onoja, said “We have sports and club society every week, where club members gather in various classes from JSS 1,2 and 3 . We discuss, educate and enlighten the children on how to curb pneumonia.

“We have been telling the members on the number of people pneumonia has killed and the age and its severity.

“We want members to create more awareness especially by telling their parents and guardians how to protect their children from pneumonia”.

Meanwhile, SCI called 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.

SCI said, this year’s programme with the theme: Pneumonia and Air Pollution, 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.

It said Pneumonia is a disease of inequality, adding that 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.

“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.

“Government should ensure that everyone has access to life-saving oxygen when and where they need it, including children with pneumonia.

“Government should also 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.

“Government should 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.

“Government should work together across health, air quality and climate communities to tackle the biggest infectious killer on the planet.”

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