Bangladesh has made significant progress in reducing infant mortality in the last two decades, but pneumonia still remains one of the most fatal causes, health experts said yesterday.
They said every year, pneumonia -- a lung infection caused by virus, bacteria or fungi -- kills around 16,960 children under five years of age in the county: close to two deaths per hour.
The experts came up with the facts at a roundtable discussion jointly organised by Unicef, Save the Children and the Ministry of Health and Family Planning at The Daily Star Centre. The discussion was organised on the occasion of World Pneumonia Day today.
Speaking at the event, they cited malnutrition, inadequate breastfeeding, indoor air pollution, parental smoking and late detection as the major risk factors for pneumonia. They urged people to be aware of the risk factors and suggested that the government take necessary steps in this regard in order to reduce infant mortality and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Citing a recent study of World Health Organisation, paediatric specialist Dr Mohammod Shahidullah said about 16 percent of the total under-five deaths were caused by pneumonia in 2016 -- the highest among infectious causes of death. Pneumonia is usually referred to as the “forgotten killer” as historically the disease received little attention despite its severity, he said in his keynote.
“We are bogged down with so many health issues we forget that pneumonia is a killer,” said Shahidullah, president of Bangladesh Paediatric Association (BPA).
He also said the country's primary target should be to reduce child deaths caused by pneumonia by half. He called for following the “Protect, Prevent and Treat” framework to combat the disease.
Prof MAK Azad Chowdhury, secretary general of BPA, said early detection is a must to cure the disease. “In most cases, parents do not bring their children to doctors in time,” he said.
Dr Samir K Saha, a noted paediatric specialist at Dhaka Shishu Hospital, urged the government to consult donor organisations so the countrywide free immunisation programme does not stop even when Bangladesh becomes a middle-income country.
Dr SM Shamsuzzaman, a line director at Directorate General of Health Services, and Dr Sabbir Ahmed, an adviser of Save the Children, also spoke at the programme, among others.