JUBA, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) – Pneumonia is killing one child every hour in South Sudan, claiming 7,640 lives of children under the age of five last year, according to a new Child Mortality analysis.
The report released Tuesday by the UN children's agency, UNICEF and charity groups Save the Children and Every Breath Counts Coalition, said Pneumonia is one of the leading killers of children in South Sudan, causing 20 percent of under-five deaths in 2018 due to inequality , poverty and lack of access to health.
Children with immune systems weakened by other infections or by malnutrition, and those living in areas with high levels of air pollution and unsafe water, are at far greater risk, the aid agencies said in a joint statement.
"Health facilities in South Sudan are overwhelmed with pneumonia cases with more than 7,000 deaths in 2018," said Rama Hansraj, Save the Children in South Sudan Country Director.
Pneumonia is caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi, and leaves children fighting for breath as their lungs fill with infection and fluid.
The aid agencies called on the South Sudanese government to urgently commit new resources to tackle this deadly disease.
"Pneumonia is among the top killer diseases of children under five in South Sudan. Solutions to prevent, diagnose and treat pneumonia are well known," Mohamed Ayoya, UNICEF Representative in South Sudan said.
"The Government of the Republic of South Sudan, the Ministry of Health, UN agencies and the donor community need to join efforts to combat pneumonia through Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and equitable access to quality primary and community health care," Ayoya, added .
Pneumonia deaths can be prevented with vaccines, nutritional support and preventing the spread of disease with clean water and handwashing, but those services are lacking in South Sudan due to lack of resources.
The groups said South Sudan spends just 23 U.S. dollars per person on health care in 2016, far below the $ 86 minimum level recommended by the World Health Organization.
"For decades the leading killer of children has been a neglected disease and the world's most vulnerable children have paid the price," said Leith Greenslade, Coordinator of Every Breath Counts.