Statement from Minister Paradis: World Pneumonia Day

November 12, 2013

Pneumonia kills more children under the age of five than any other illness. Approximately 2 million children die of the disease each year—99 percent of them in developing countries. Without antibiotics to provide quick, effective treatment, this lung infection can lead to death within one or two days.

Canada recognizes the devastating impact of pneumonia on children’s health, and is fighting the disease through immunization and providing affordable antibiotic treatment at the community level.

For example, our long-standing commitment to mothers and children is why Canada is the leading contributor to UNICEF’s Catalytic Initiative to Save a Million Lives. This initiative has trained 53,000 community health workers in Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, and Tanzania. The aim is to ensure that children get early and effective health care when they are sick with malaria, pneumonia, or diarrhea. An estimated 5.5 million treatments have been provided to children suffering from these diseases.

This year saw the launch of the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF. The plan lays out a road map for governments to treat these diseases. In addition, the well-known medical journal The Lancet published a series of papers on childhood pneumonia and diarrhea outlining strengths and gaps in global efforts to reduce the impact of these diseases. To add to the global momentum to reduce these killer diseases, Canada recently announced that it is contributing $74,500,000 to the WHO to improve the diagnosis and treatment of pneumonia, malaria, and diarrhea in sub-Saharan Africa.

At the 2010 G-8 meeting Canada made a major contribution toward better health for women and children when it launched the Muskoka Initiative for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. This initiative garnered international commitments of US$7.3 billion in new funding over five years, including $1.1 billion from Canada. With this commitment, Canada and its partners aim to prevent 64,000 maternal deaths and 1.3 million deaths of children under the age of five. Reducing the burden of disease from pneumonia is part of that commitment. Since 2007 our development efforts have helped train more than 102,000 community health workers to diagnose and treat pneumonia, as well as to provide more than 4.3 million treatments to children suffering from pneumonia.

Through our funding to the GAVI Alliance and GAVI’s Advanced Market Commitment, Canada is helping to develop new vaccines to protect children from pneumonia. This financial commitment by donors subsidizes the purchase of vaccines at a set price, motivating pharmaceutical companies to invest in the vaccine and scale up production for developing countries. This initiative is expected to prevent approximately 7 million child deaths by 2030 through the development of pneumococcal vaccines. To date, an estimated 10 million children in 27 countries have been immunized.

On this World Pneumonia Day, Canadians can be proud of Canada’s achievements in fighting this disease, which is so devastating to young children.

Christian Paradis
Minister of International Development and Minister for La Francophonie