Bangladesh has achieved a lot in cutting down under five child mortality rate over the years but a lot still needs to be done to reach the target set by the sustainable development goals (SDGs), experts said at a roundtable on Tuesday.
The SDGs aim to bring down child mortality to 25 in every 1000 births within 2030.
The speakers said that despite several government initiatives, pneumonia has continued to become one of the major reasons of under five child mortality in Bangladesh.
The roundtable on ways to reduce child mortality from pneumonia was organised at Karwan Bazar’s CA Bhaban to mark World Pneumonia Day.
South Asian Pediatric Association president Ruhul Amin in his presentation showed that pneumonia killed a child every hour in 2018 and 13 per cent of the total under five mortality is caused by pneumonia in Bangladesh.
He pointed out that putting the disease on the health agenda, stimulating national action and mobilising the donor community for more resources are the actions country needs to take to achieve the SDG goal.
Additional director general of Director General of Health Services Nasima Sultana said the government’s immunization programmes have achieved a lot of successes but it is hard to reach areas such as Chittagong Hill Tracts and other remote areas.
Nasima also highlighted creating awareness on household air pollution and incorporating female representatives of local government bodies in people-oriented health management programmes.
UNICEF Bangladesh’s chief of health Maya Vandenant stressed private sector capacity building as around half the children are taken to the private facilities for pneumonia treatment.
On the necessity of decreasing air pollution to fight pneumonia, Maya said, “Children are most vulnerable to air pollution, so we must act to make the outdoor air quality better.”
Family planning department’s director Mohammed Sharif said the government is reviving union health centres and providing training to physicians and field workers on various healthcare systems.
The authorities are also eyeing community mobilisation for preventing pneumonia, he added.
Joint chief of health and family planning ministry AE Md Mohiuddin Osmani said government healthcare facilities in union, upazila and district levels should be incorporated in the plan to prevent pneumonia.
BSMMU’s neonatalogy professor Abdul Mannan said some kinds of pneumonia do not require antibiotics but we provide them in every case.
Misuse of antibiotics should be prevented, he added.
Icddr’b senior scientist Mohammod Jobayer Chisty said availability of vaccine, fighting pollution and malnutrition should be prioritized to fight the disease.
Icddr’b associate scientist Ahmed Ehsanur Rahman said that Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) programme should be revitalised.
UNICEF’s health manager Ziaul Matin, NNHP and IMCI’s deputy programme manager Sabina Ashrafi, Icddr’b chief of maternal and child health division Shams El Arefeen, health department’s programme manager Md Emdadul Haque, Save the Children’s Sabbir Ahmed, among others, spoke at the roundtable.
Prothom Alo associate editor Abdul Quayyum delivered the opening speech while special affairs coordinator Firoz Choudhury moderated the roundtable.