From the Field

10 worst places for children to get pneumonia

African woman holding baby, who has pneumonia.

Pneumonia is the number one killer of children younger than 5 worldwide. In 2016, about 896,000 children died from the respiratory disease, accounting for 16% of deaths worldwide among children younger than 5.

The 10 worst countries for children to be sick with pneumonia are in Africa and Asia. That’s because only a portion of children younger than 5 who contract the infection receive critical antibiotic treatment.

Most children who die from pneumonia succumb to the disease in their first two years of life. The best way to protect them from catching pneumonia is for their mothers to breastfeed them exclusively during their first six months and provide balanced nutrition through age 5, says Alfonso Rosales, World Vision’s senior technical adviser for maternal, newborn, and child health. “There is a correlation between malnutrition and pneumonia,” Alfonso says.

Providing vitamin A supplements helps keep the skin and respiratory system healthy too.

“It gives you an extra layer of protection of your respiratory tract,” Alfonso says.

In some cases, vaccines are the best prevention option, he says.

If a child comes down with pneumonia, Alfonso says the key is to help parents recognize symptoms early. Antibiotics, like amoxicillin, are critical in helping children recover. It typically costs less than $1 per dose, according to the Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia.

In places like Ethiopia, in particular, World Vision-trained community caregivers help identify sick children, administer the first dose of antibiotics, and connect them with appropriate local or regional medical services.

The 10 worst places to get pneumonia, based on number of deaths in children under 5 in 2015 and their proportion of the global total:

  1. India — 172,960
  2. Nigeria — 117,280
  3. Pakistan — 69,440
  4. Democratic Republic of Congo — 48,640
  5. Ethiopia — 29,920
  6. China — 26,880
  7. Indonesia — 20,960
  8. Tanzania — 18,720
  9. Bangladesh — 16,960
  10. Angola — 15,360

World Vision works in all of these countries except Nigeria. Learn more pneumonia facts and about World Vision’s work to prevent child deaths worldwide.


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