Although a preventable infection, pneumonia remains the leading cause of death among children in the country.
Some 24,300 children aged 0-5 years die of pneumonia in Bangladesh every year. From this count, 67 children under the age of five die of pneumonia in the country every day. Of these, 52% of children die at home without getting any treatment.
This information was revealed at a views-exchange programme organised by Research for Decision Makers (RDM) and Data for Impact (D4I) at the ICDDR, B on Wednesday – a day before World Pneumonia Day 2020.
Speaking on the occasion, experts said the issue of pneumonia prevention in the country is not getting due importance.
At the beginning of the programme, Dr Quamrun Nahar, head of research, Maternal and Child Health Division, icddr, b, said there has been a lot of improvement in the health sector in the last two decades. There has also been marked progress in reducing infant mortality. Yet over 24,000 children under the age of 5 are losing their lives to pneumonia.
Dr Ahmed Ehsanur Rahman, associate scientist, Maternal and Child Health Division, icddr,b, presented the keynote paper, entitled "Pneumonia in Bangladesh: where we are and what we need to do".
He said 52% of deaths caused by pneumonia take place at home without any treatment, while 3% of deaths occur at home with treatment.
The remaining 45% of pneumonia deaths happen in hospitals or healthcare centres, he maintained, adding that the Covid-19 situation may give rise to the number of deaths caused by pneumonia.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called on hospitals to ensure 10 things to reduce deaths from pneumonia. But a survey conducted in 2017 found that only 5% of those instructions were ensured in district hospitals in the country.
In 2011, 11.7 out of every 1,000 children born in the country died of pneumonia before they reached their fifth birthday, said the keynote paper, adding that the ratio has come down to 8.1 per 1,000 children now.
According to the global target, the number of deaths per 1,000 live births should be reduced to 3 by 2025.
Dr Ruhul Amin, professor of Pediatrics at Dhaka Shishu Hospital, stressed breastfeeding to prevent pneumonia among children.
He said, "A baby should be exclusively breastfed for six months. After six months, soft rice and vegetables should be added to the baby's diet chart, while breastfeeding should be continued until the baby reaches two years of age."
He also called for reducing environmental pollution to prevent pneumonia and emphasised building awareness among people so that they bring a child to a healthcare centre whenever the child shows any symptom of pneumonia.
Prof Dr Samir Saha, executive director of Child Health Research Foundation, said, "We need to work to reduce deaths from pneumonia. In addition, we need to reduce pneumonia cases."
Mentioning that the causes behind about 50% of pneumonia cases are still unknown, she said, "If you want to prevent pneumonia, you need to take steps to find out the cause."
Dr Md Jobayer Chishti, senior scientist at Hospitals Nutrition and Clinical Services Division of the icddr,b, said children who are deficient in oxygen have a higher mortality rate due to pneumonia. Therefore, it is important to have pulse oximeters in every health centre, he added.
"Deaths from pneumonia can be reduced by ensuring oxygen supply to patients with pneumonia through using the indigenous innovation Bubble CPAP," he maintained.
Stating that 15% of children die of pneumonia due to malnutrition, he suggested eliminating malnutrition among children in order to keep them safe from pneumonia.