“The global health community needs to stimulate investments in research and development”
With close to 900,000 children under the age of five dying from pneumonia, UNICEF, “la Caixa” Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation called for stronger engagement by the public and private sectors to fight and end these preventable deaths. These partnerships, they said, are crucial to accelerate access to new health technologies, related to oxygen and its derivates.
The call came during an expert summit at UNICEF’s headquarters in New York today, “SDG in Action: Partnerships and Innovation to End Preventable Child Deaths from Pneumonia”. The event brought together experts and leading representatives from the private sector, civil society, academia and the United Nations.
“The global health community needs to stimulate investments in research and development,” said Kristoffer Gandrup-Marino, Chief of Innovation at UNICEF’s Supply Division. “Through these essential partnerships, UNICEF is able to provide incentives to the private sector to accelerate the research and development of critical health technologies for children.”
The experts emphasized making improvements in disease prevention and treatment accessible to developing countries, with a focus on access to oxygen therapy, a treatment for severe pneumonia.
“The number of children who need access to oxygen is overwhelming,” said Javier Martos, Executive Director of the Spanish Committee for UNICEF. “Pneumonia is a preventable and curable disease in industrialized countries, but it remains deadly in some developing countries, where in 2015 it caused 1 in 6 child deaths.”
Although infant mortality due to pneumonia fell by 47 per cent between 2000 and 2015 – from 1.7 million deaths a year to 920,000 – pneumonia caused 16 per cent of all deaths among children under 5 in 2016 alone.
“Despite progress in combatting pneumonia in the last few decades, one aspect has remained consistent: the fact that it exists as a disease of poverty,” said Dr. Keith Klugman, Director (Pneumonia), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Now is the time to double-down on our collective efforts.”
UNICEF data shows that approximately 13 per cent of children with pneumonia – 1.86 million a year – have hypoxemia (abnormal decrease in arterial blood oxygen pressure). Too many children die because hypoxemia is not easily recognized and oxygen therapy is not readily available – the equipment is often outdated or the staff lacks adequate training.
“Global health is one of the top priorities in international cooperation for “la Caixa” Foundation,” said Jaume Giró, Director General of “la Caixa” Foundation. “With this alliance with UNICEF, we are committed to innovation for diagnosis and we want to make the world aware of the importance of the private sector working so that no child dies of a preventable disease such as pneumonia.”