Nigeria has been labelled as the country with the highest rate of air pollution-related pneumonia deaths of children under-five in the world, and the highest number of household air pollution-related pneumonia deaths among children under-five.

Pneumonia is caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi, and leaves children fighting for breath as their lungs fill with pus and fluid.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, going by the Global Burden of Disease 2019 report, 78 per cent of air pollution-related pneumonia deaths in Nigeria are among children under-five, the highest proportion across all countries.

The GBD 2019 report revealed that in 17 countries across the African continent, air pollution contributes to more than 50 percent of pneumonia deaths, most of which are due to household air pollution and among children.

The report further states that deaths from outdoor air pollution in the region are rising.

Furthermore, it was revealed that in Nigeria, 67,416 children under five years died in 2019 due to overall air pollution-related pneumonia while 49,591 children in the same age range died from household air-pollution-related pneumonia during the same year.

What they are saying

UNICEF representative to Nigeria, Peter Hawkins was quoted saying, “Almost 185 children under the age of five die every day from pneumonia due to air pollution in Nigeria, the majority of them from air pollution in the household, including that from cooking over open fires or cookstoves in the home. This is a travesty, for their families and for Nigeria, especially because the vast majority of these deaths are preventable.”

He continued, saying, “It is critical that the government introduce policies to reduce the major causes of air pollution-related pneumonia deaths among Nigerians – especially children, who bear the biggest burden.”

Although most pneumonia deaths can be prevented with vaccines and treated with low-cost antibiotics, a disconcerting number of one-year-olds children in Nigeria are yet to be vaccinated with the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV).