To mark World Pneumonia Day, a senior UK parliamentary delegation travelled to Dhaka this week to see firsthand the full impact of pneumonia on Bangladeshi children.
Jim Dobbin, Chair of the APPG Against Pneumonia and Malcolm Bruce MP, Chair of the Select Committee for International Development visited Dhaka Shishu hospital where children suffering from pneumonia fill an entire ward. Pneumonia is Bangladesh's biggest childhood killer, claiming 55,000 young lives each year.
"Bangladesh has made huge strides in its immunisation programme," said Malcolm Bruce MP, "but more still needs to be done to tackle one of the worst child killers in the developing world: pneumonia."
Bangladesh is expected to apply to the GAVI Alliance in 2012 for financial support to introduce the pneumococcal vaccine, which offers protection from one of the leading causes of pneumonia. Since 2010, 16 GAVI-eligible countries have introduced pneumococcal vaccine with the Alliance's support.
GAVI provides funding support to developing country governments to enable them to roll out life-saving new and underused vaccines. Earlier this year, the UK Government pledged an additional GBP 814 million to support GAVI, which has helped immunise an additional 288 million children and saved an estimated five million lives since 2000.
Both Dobbin and Bruce together with Ivan Lewis MP, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, timed their visit to the Bangladeshi capital to mark the 12 November World Pneumonia Day -- an awareness-raising event organised by the Global Coalition Against Pneumonia.
"The World Pneumonia Day Coalition is a fantastic group of organisations coming together to raise the profile of this disease which has a staggering impact in the developing world," said Dobbin.
The MPs also visited an immunisation clinic in a Dhaka slum, watching as nurses vaccinated children with the life-saving pentavalent vaccine, which offers protection from five diseases (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b). In 2009, GAVI allocated US$ 120 million to fund the introduction of pentavalent vaccine into the Bangladesh national immunisation programme.
"This trip has been a real eye opener providing an opportunity to see the positive impact that the UK's long-term funding commitment to the GAVI Alliance are having in developing countries," said Ivan Lewis, MP.
"We have seen first-hand the burden of this disease on Bangladeshis. But I am delighted that in the face of this challenge they are united and committed to providing solutions," added Lewis.