Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

World Pneumonia Day 2018

A mother and her infant, Sierra Leone.

Pneumonia is the single largest infectious cause of death in children worldwide yet it can be prevented with simple interventions, and treated with low-cost, low-tech medication and care. It accounts for around 16% of all deaths of children under five years. It affects children and families everywhere, but is most prevalent in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Children can be protected from pneumonia. WHO is working to increase access to preventive care and effective treatments.

The WHO and UNICEF integrated Global action plan for pneumonia and diarrhoea (GAPPD) aims to accelerate pneumonia control with a combination of interventions to protect, prevent, and treat pneumonia in children with actions to:

  • protect children from pneumonia including promoting exclusive breastfeeding and adequate complementary feeding;
  • prevent pneumonia with vaccinations, hand washing with soap, reducing household air pollution, HIV prevention and cotrimoxazole prophylaxis for HIV-infected and exposed children;
  • treat pneumonia focusing on making sure that every sick child has access to the right kind of care -- either from a community-based health worker, or in a health facility if the disease is severe -- and can get the antibiotics and oxygen they need to get well.


WHO is conducting research into how community level health workers can increase access to treatment where access to health facilities is low and referral advice is not usually accepted by families.

WHO is also conducting research into possible misdiagnosis of pneumonia which prevents effective treatment, increases strains on health systems and risks antimicrobial resistance