WASH and Pneumonia: Exploring the Links

Acute respiratory infections like pneumonia are the leading cause of death worldwide in children under the age of five, killing an estimated 1.3 million children in 2011 alone. That’s more than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined! The good news is that pneumonia is preventable and treatable.

Check out our factsheet, “WASH and Pneumonia,” for the latest news on the linkages between the two.

Investments in preventing, treating, and protecting young children against the two leading killers – pneumonia and diarrhea – have contributed to significant declines in child mortality over the last decade.  Yet there is much more to be done. Due to the clear links between water and sanitation, it makes sense to address pneumonia and diarrhea together. Using integrated measures to tackle them will save lives and help achieve Millennium Development Goal 4.  Investments in water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) are essential to addressing both diseases.

One of the most effective and inexpensive WASH interventions? Handwashing with soap. It’s been shown to reduce the risk of respiratory infections like pneumonia by 25%. Because hands are the principal carriers of disease-causing germs, washing them with soap at critical times (i.e., after using a toilet, cleaning a child’s bottom, and before handling food) reduces rates of pneumonia. The majority of households have soap – it’s just used more for laundry and cleaning than handwashing. Many organizations are working to promote the practice, change behavior, and save lives.

WASH Advocates is excited to support World Pneumonia Day on November 12 to highlight the linkages between WASH and pneumonia as well as diarrhea. Interested in getting involved? From the World Pneumonia Day website, below are a number of activities you can do:

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Activist Toolkit

Informational Resources

Rebecca Fishman is the Operations and Special Projects Director at WASH Advocates. She focuses on the intersection of WASH, health, and gender.

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