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A good news story: how Bangladesh is winning the fight against childhood pneumonia

It’s a real success story. Every day, 26,000 children in Bangladesh are given a life-saving vaccination against pneumonia.

And since 2015 – when the pneumococcal vaccine (PCV) was first included in the government’s routine Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI) – 48 million vaccinations have been provided to children.

Read our new pneumonia briefing, ‘5 Years of Pneumonia Vaccination in Bangladesh’

This achievement is something Save the Children and our partners advocated for, over a period of five years, through:

  • establishing the National Pneumonia Coalition
  • partnering with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and other multilateral agencies
  • capitalising on policy and media opportunities

Bangladesh’s success in PCV expansion has been a huge step forward in reducing preventable childhood deaths from pneumonia.

The story of Shipra* and her baby daughter Prima* is testament to what has been achieved.

PRIMA’S LIFE-SAVING PROTECTION

“I was surprised that a serious disease like pneumonia could be treated here in my village,” says Shipra. “I wish that it had been available before.”

Shipra lost her first child to pneumonia. In the blink of an eye, an ordinary-seeming cold turned severe. Her family is poor, the health facility far away, and there were no doctors or other help nearby. It’s heart-breaking that she was helpless to save her child.

Since then, fortnightly satellite clinics have been introduced in Shipra’s village.  Here, community health workers inform mothers about the benefits of immunisation and encourage them to bring their newborn babies to get vaccines.

Shipra has a baby daughter now, Prima, just two months old, who Shipra has made sure is vaccinated against pneumonia.

“I am grateful, and I encourage all the mothers to take their children for vaccinations,” says Shipra.

Now in Shipra’s village, far fewer children die from preventable diseases, particularly pneumonia.

Hitting the target

Shipra’s story is part of Bangladesh’s wider progress in combating childhood pneumonia. As the graph below shows, child deaths from pneumonia have come down steadily year-on-year since the turn of the century.

In the pivotal year of 2015, Bangladesh was one of relatively few low-income countries that met the target under Millennium Development Goal 4 on under five mortality. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh was declared the Vaccine Hero of 2019 by Gavi.

But not there yet

Nevertheless, a high proportion of children under five in Bangladesh still die from preventable and manageable causes, such as pneumonia. In 2018, pneumonia killed more than 12,000 children under five – one child every 45 minutes. 13% of all under-five children’s deaths was due to pneumonia.

With a pneumonia mortality rate of 4 children per 1000 live births, Bangladesh is still missing the target pneumonia mortality rate of just 3 children per 1000 live births as set out in the Global Action Plan for Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (GAPPD). Despite the gains made, further work is needed to reach this target.

What we’re doing

Save the Children continues to advocate with the government of Bangladesh and partners to improve coverage of PCV and to reach the hardest-to-reach children so that no child is left behind. And we’re providing technical expertise on the ground for child survival initiatives

With just ten years left to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has designed the 4th Health, Population and Nutrition Sector Program of Bangladesh to meet the country’s prime focus on improving newborn survival. A functioning Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses (IMCI) programme is required to achieve this. Save the Children Bangladesh and our partners have agreed on a broad consensus to address the full implementation of IMCI to:

  • ensure good-quality equitable access to primary healthcare
  • prevent children dying from pneumonia
  • contribute to achieving universal health coverage.

 

* Name changed to protect identity

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Tahrim Ariba Chaudhury

Tahrim Ariba Chaudhury

Tahrim Ariba Chaudhury