India had highest under-5 pneumonia, diarrhoea deaths in 2016: Report

New Delhi: India has topped the list of 15 countries with the highest number of pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths in children under five in 2016, says a report.

But, owing to increasing coverage of Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine and continued scale-up of rotavirus vaccines, first introduced in mid-2016, as well as zinc supplementation, India has shown progress in interventions for fighting pneumonia and diarrhoea by one percentage point.

The 2018 Pneumonia and diarrhoea Progress Report by the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, showed that in India the coverage for Hib and rotavirus vaccines increased by eight and nine percentage points, while zinc coverage was recorded as 20 per cent.

In contrast, the other treatment indicators decreased: ORS coverage (-13 percentage points), exclusive breastfeeding (-10), and access to pneumonia care (-4).

Globally, pneumonia and diarrhoea cause 1.36 million deaths in children under five in 2016, with over two-thirds of the global burden of pneumonia and diarrhoea mortality occurring in just 15 countries, including India.

Despite significant reductions of disease in recent years with improvements in access to and use of health interventions, nearly half a million pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths still occurred in India and Nigeria.

“Progress to stop child deaths is hampered by persistent inequities in countries around the world,” said Kate O’Brien, Professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of International Health.

“Addressing inequities will demand greater levels of funding, strong political commitment, accountability supported by better data, and a coordinated global effort that prioritizes the most vulnerable,” she added.

The report analyses how effectively countries are delivering 10 key interventions — breastfeeding, vaccination, access to care, use of antibiotics, oral rehydration solution (ORS), and zinc supplementation — to help protect against, prevent and treat pneumonia and diarrhoea.

These measures are proven to help prevent deaths due to these illnesses and could help achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal target of reducing under-five mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births by 2030.

The report finds health systems are falling woefully short of ensuring the most vulnerable children have access to prevention and treatment services in the five countries that account for 70 per cent of global pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths in children under five.