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L-R Prof. I. Omokhodion, Dr. Dorothy Esangbedo, Dr. Idowu Sobanjo and Prof. Ifeoma Ebguonu at the conference.

Even as a vaccine preventable disease, pneumonia is a serious disease, often life-threatening, in young children. Also known as Pneumococcal disease, according to experts, it can result in meningitis and severe pneumonia, leading to an estimated 14.5 million cases of serious illness and 735,000 deaths each year in HIV negative children under 5 years of age. 19 per cent of all pneumococcal deaths under five years of age occurred. 6 countries (India, Nigeria, Ethiopia, DR Congo, Afghanistan and China) accounted for more than half of all pneumococcal deaths under age five in 2000.

However, at a 5 day national conference organized by the Pediatric Association of Nigeria held at the Conference Hall of the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Ile-Ife, Osun State, experts in infant care and nutrition gathered to discuss the way forward in search of a solution to the scourge facing children under the age of five in Nigeria.

During one of the sessions sponsored by leading healthcare experts, Pfizer Specialties Limited, it was explained that reduction in the burden of Pneumococcal disease in children under 5 years of age will help in fast tracking achievement of MDG4.

The presenter said the Millennium Development Goal 4 is to reduce child mortality of by two thirds by 2015. He said science has identified that one of the leading causes of death among children, both globally and in

Nigeria is the pneumococcal disease, what we popularly know as pneumonia and it is very common in our environment and as a matter of fact, Nigeria has the highest rate in Africa and ranks second in the world,' he said.

The recommended intervention by the World Health Organization is GAPP (Global Action Plan for Prevention and control of Pneumonia) which recommends three approaches to fighting Pneumonia. Protect against Pneumonia, Prevent Pneumonia and proper treatment of Identified Pneumonia cases.

Another speaker at the conference, Professor Oyewole Tomori, a Professor of Virology and former vice chancellor of Redeemers University, Ogun State said while experts make researches to curb pneumonia and polio in Nigeria, the country still remains a high-burdened society health wise adding that the cause is mainly blamed on lack of political will from the government.

He also explained that if the health sector was in good shape, other sectors of the nation will be functioning effectively. He therefore identified that eradication of polio in Nigeria is slow and that the government need to respond to the situation as soon as possible because the scourge affects the future of Nigeria which are the children. He stressed that there is urgent need for the government to improve the healthcare sector and build on earlier successes in the country.

'Basically, provision of security, shelter and health is the duty of the government but it is evident that much focus is not being put to the health sector which is a major force that drives a nation. The government should increase their level of advocacy, prevention and cure programmes starting from the grassroots,' he explained.

At the end of the programme, participants at the conference concluded that stakeholders including the government must be actively involved in restoring sanity to the health sector emphasizing that routine immunization, proper breastfeeding and school feeding at the primary level must be constantly carried out. They also noted that of all the 36 states in Nigeria, only Osun State still practices the public primary school feeding programme. 'We must restore sanity to the health sector, we must help improve the life of the Nigerian children and ensure that we give them a better tomorrow,' they said.