Fight the Leading Killer of Kids and Support Frontline Health Workers for World Pneumonia Day

November 12, 2012
by Crickett Nicovich, Senior Policy Associate

Pneumonia and diarrhea are the two leading killers of children under the age of five, causing over 2 million deaths each year. Nearly 90 percent of child deaths due to pneumonia and diarrhea occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

A child receives an injection of pneumococcal vaccine at an event marking the vaccine’s introduction into Central African Republic’s national immunisation programme (30 June 2011). Source: Elouma/GAVI/2011.

But, both pneumonia and diarrhea can be easily treated and prevented! Most key interventions to protect kids from these diseases overlap – including access to vaccines, good nutrition, basic sanitation and hand-washing, and, importantly, trained frontline health workers to immunize against, diagnose, and properly treat these diseases.

As first points of contact for millions of people living in rural and other underserved areas, frontline health workers provide health care in many of the hardest to reach areas, often traveling on foot with just a backpack of supplies. They strengthen their communities by delivering lifesaving care that people need, but might not otherwise receive because of distance, cost, or other barriers to access.

In June of 2012, the US, Ethiopia, and India co-hosted the Child Survival: Call to Action with over 50 ministers of health from developing countries. At this meeting, global experts called for the end of preventable child deaths by 2035. Scaling up access to vaccines and treatments for pneumonia and diarrhea will be imperative to reducing child mortality, but these health services don’t deliver themselves. Gains in child survival in developing countries are directly linked to access to trained health workers.

In response to the current global health worker shortage, especially in Africa where they have 11 percent of the population, 24 percent of the global disease burden, but just 3 percent of the world’s health work force (WHO 2006), Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) has introduced the Frontline Health Worker Resolution (H.Res. 734). This resolution supports the essential role of frontline health workers in delivering life-saving services by calling for the US to have a coordinated and comprehensive health workforce strategy for increasing equitable access to qualified health workers in developing countries, particularly in underserved areas.

This World Pneumonia Day, ask your Representative to cosponsor the Frontline Health Worker Resolution (H.Res. 734) to build support for health workers that provide life-saving vaccines and treatment for children in developing countries. Here’s an additional FACT SHEET on the Frontline Health Workers Resolution that you can use to build congressional and media support.

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