New Delhi: India ranks the third lowest among 15 high-burden countries for its coverage of live-saving interventions to prevent pneumonia and diarrhoea among children, according to a report released on Wednesday.
However, the report noted recent commitments made by the government towards access to child health and stated that the country is in a position to improve its ranking.
The 2014 Pneumonia and Diarrhoea Progress Report was released on Wednesday—World Pneumonia Day—by the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The report measured 15 countries that have the highest number of deaths for children under five years of age due to pneumonia and diarrhoea on the Global Action Plan for Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (GAPPD) score—a metric of vital pneumonia and diarrhoea interventions outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), which includes vaccination, exclusive breast-feeding, access to care, use of antibiotics and oral rehydration solution, etc.
Of the 15 countries, Chad, Nigeria and India were ranked the lowest with GAPPD scores of 23%, 29% and 32%, respectively.
“In India, pneumonia and diarrhoea have been a health challenge for a very long time. However, the government has started intensifying strategies to combat these diseases through various interventions. These include the government’s decision to introduce the Pentavalent vaccine against Hib (haemophilus influenzae type b) pneumonia and meningitis in an additional 11 states, introduce rotavirus vaccines for diarrhoea in its routine immunization programme, and step up the measles vaccination programme,” said V.K. Paul, head of paediatrics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi.
The report included an analysis of 27 states in India which showed that Goa performed the best for GAPPD score, while Meghalaya was the worst. There is also a high level of inequity in access to intervention between urban and rural regions within states, the report noted.
According to the latest estimates from Unicef, pneumonia and diarrhoea collectively claimed more than 3 lakh lives among children in 2013.
“We celebrate the progress in preventing pneumonia this World Pneumonia Day, while recognizing the need to ensure all children have access to care and early diagnosis, vaccines and medication. This year’s Pneumonia and Diarrhoea Progress Report takes a special look within two large and high-burden countries, India and Nigeria, to identify inequities in coverage levels that exist between states,” said Kate O’Brien, professor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and executive director of IVAC.
Other than Chad, Nigeria and India, high-burden countries include Pakistan, Ethiopia, China, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Kenya, Sudan, Bangladesh and Uganda, among others.
“These 15 countries with the greatest number of under-five child deaths from pneumonia and diarrhoea in 2013 bore 71% of the global burden of child deaths from these two diseases in spite of accounting for only 56% of the world’s under-five-year-old population,” the report stated.
“The recent decision by the Union government to introduce three new childhood vaccines in the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP), including vaccines against rotavirus, rubella, polio (injectable), is a clear indication of the government’s commitment. However, the government must also consider introducing the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) in the Universal Immunization Programme which is recommended by the WHO for all countries, especially those with under-five mortality rates over 50. More than 115 countries around the world have introduced PCV vaccine including Afghanistan and Pakistan, while Bangladesh plans to introduce it later this month,” said Vijay Yewale, president, Indian Academy of Pediatrics.