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Developmental Disabilities

Pneumonia in Kenya: A Silent Killer that Demands Attention

By November 6, 2023No Comments3 min read

Pneumonia in Kenya: A Silent Killer that Demands Attention


Pneumonia, often referred to as the “forgotten killer of children,” remains a significant public health concern in Kenya. Despite being preventable and treatable, pneumonia continues to claim the lives of many Kenyan children and adults.


Pneumonia is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in Kenya, particularly among children under the age of five. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), pneumonia was responsible for approximately 15,000 deaths in Kenya in 2017, making it one of the top causes of death among children.

Kenya was ranked among the top 15 countries concerning pneumonia prevalence and contributed to approximately 74% of the world’s annual pneumonia cases in 2018


Globally, pneumonia accounts for 14% of all children under the age of 5, killing 740180 children in 2019.


The burden of pneumonia falls disproportionately on rural and underserved communities, where access to healthcare and vaccination coverage may be limited.


Causes and Risk Factors

In Kenya, children are more vulnerable to pneumonia due to a combination of factors, including:


  • Malnutrition: Malnourished children often have weakened immune systems, making them more susceptible to respiratory infections, including pneumonia.


  • Lack of proper sanitation and hygiene: Poor sanitation and inadequate access to clean water can contribute to transmitting infectious agents responsible for pneumonia.


  • Limited access to healthcare: Challenges in accessing healthcare services, lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment.


  • Indoor air pollution: The use of open fires or inefficient stoves for cooking and heating can result in exposure to harmful indoor pollutants, increasing the risk of respiratory infections.


  • Low vaccination coverage: Incomplete vaccination coverage against diseases like measles and whooping cough can increase the risk of pneumonia in children.



Prevention Strategies


Several key strategies can help mitigate the risk of pneumonia:


  • Vaccination: Ensuring high vaccination coverage against vaccine-preventable diseases such as Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), pneumococcus, and measles is crucial. Kenya’s Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) provides vaccines to protect against these diseases.


  • Promotion of breastfeeding for the first six months of life can boost a child’s immune system and reduce the risk of pneumonia.


  • Improved nutrition: Addressing malnutrition by providing essential nutrients can strengthen children’s immune systems.


  • Clean water and sanitation: Access to clean water and improved sanitation facilities can help reduce the transmission of pneumonia-causing pathogens.


  • Indoor air quality: Promoting cleaner and more efficient cooking and heating methods can reduce indoor air pollution and decrease the risk of respiratory infections.


Treatment and Care

Prompt and appropriate treatment is vital for individuals who develop pneumonia. Health facilities in Kenya provide antibiotics and supportive care to manage pneumonia cases effectively.

Additionally, caregivers must recognize the warning signs of pneumonia, such as;

  • Rapid breathing
  • Chest indrawing
  • coughing
  • And seek medical attention promptly

Way Forward

Ensuring that healthcare services are accessible and affordable for all is a priority.


Health education and awareness campaigns are needed to empower Kenyan communities with the knowledge and skills to prevent pneumonia effectively.


Collaborative efforts between the government, non-governmental organizations, and international agencies can help scale up initiatives to combat pneumonia and reduce its prevalence.


Pneumonia continues to be a formidable health challenge in Kenya, especially for young children. Addressing this issue requires a multifaceted approach, including improving access to healthcare. It also involves enhancing vaccination coverage, promoting proper nutrition, and raising awareness about prevention and treatment.


By focusing on these strategies and working together, Kenya can make significant strides in reducing the burden of pneumonia. Pneumonia should no longer be a silent killer but a preventable and treatable condition in the country.


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