Celebrating World Pneumonia Day 2011 in Cairo

By Sarah Eissa
Journalist based in Cairo, Egypt

The campaign aims to vaccinate at least 10,000 children as a 1st step.
World Pneumonia Day 2011

Pneumonia is a killer that claims a child’s life every 20 seconds worldwide, though many people are not aware of it.

According to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), the 2006 report titled “Pneumonia: the Forgotten Killer of Children” says that it kills more children than AIDS, Malaria, and Measles combined, accounting for 19 per cent of all under-five deaths. Over two million die from Pneumonia each year accounting for almost one in five under-five deaths worldwide.

The report says that it's estimated that more than 150 million episodes of Pneumonia occur every year among children under five in developing countries, accounting for more than 95 per cent of all new cases worldwide.

Between 11 million and 20 million children with Pneumonia will require hospitalization, and more than 2 millions will die from the disease. The incidence of Pneumonia among children decreases as they get older.

Due to these figures and the lack of knowledge about Pneumonia, the Egyptian organization Alashanek Ya Balady (AYB) organized “Protection is their Right” (PTR) event in cooperation with the Egyptian Pharmaceutical Students Federation (EPSF) and under the auspices of the Egyptian Pediatric Association (EPA), to increase awareness about Pneumonia.

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The event took place on November 12 which has been marked as World Pneumonia Day (WPD) by the Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia. According to their website, the coalition was established in April 2009 to raise awareness about the toll of Pneumonia, and to advocate for global action to protect against, and effectively treat, the deadly disease. The coalition is a global network of more than 125 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community-based organizations, academic institutions, governmental agencies and foundations.

AYB organized the WPD Festival in Egypt this year at El-Gezira Youth Center. According to Rama Maher, the Senior Communications Officer of AYB’s Sustainable Development unit, it’s the first time the event is organized on a large scale in Egypt. The campaign aimed to reduce child mortality in Egypt through fighting diseases causing more child death.

“We started with pneumonia because it’s one of the diseases that cause many deaths for children under-five years,” Maher told OnIslam.net. She explained that in 2008 there was an 11 percent child death in Egypt from Pneumonia according to WHO’s 2010 report.

At the kids’ corner some children and parents were enjoying their time as some were washing their hands, some looked like serious doctors, and others were buying products from the market.

Maher explains that the PTR campaign is working to achieve two goals. The first is creating awareness within all classes of Egypt society, poor as well as well-off, about the symptoms of pneumonia. She explains that because its are similar to other diseases which aren’t as danger, such as flu, people do not recognize the harm it could cause and so don't take their children to the doctor.

The second thing the campaign is working on is vaccinating children in poor communities. The campaign aims to vaccinate at least 10,000 children as a first step, where it has already succeeded in vaccinating around 150 children so far.

Maher adds that the vaccination is expensive and that they are educating well off people about the importance of contributing to cover the costs of the campaign. Part of what is paid for vaccination from people who can afford it will vaccinate a child in a poor area. “You vaccinated your child and contribute in vaccinating another child.”

Kids’ Corner

The WPD festival consisted of different activities which family, kids, and youth participated in. It included a stage where different people were able to performed; a graffiti wall for participants to draw on, and a kids’ corner with clowns and circus activities.

One of the organizations that helped organize and run the activities at the event was the Children International Summer Village (CISV). CISV is an international organization promoting peace education and cross cultural and global friendship. Allia Shahin, a volunteer at CISV, explained to OnIslam.net that “when there is communication and friendship between people from all around the world we will reach peace.”

At the kids’ corner some children and parents were enjoying their time as some were washing their hands, some looked like serious doctors, and others were buying products from the market. Sara Hashem Founder and Director of Discoverama Kids Museum Project explains it all.

“It’s an interactive experience with playing. It’s called museum because the museum is an educational association with basics and laws that should be studied and have accreditation,” she told OnIslam.net. “We are working on a certain criteria used by international kids museums worldwide and offer playing and interactivity with daily life in a fun way.” Children feel they are playing, while in fact they are learning.

Children start their activity by learning how to wash and dry their hands well, then using magnifiers they look at surface dust and discover dirtiness under their nails. They also learned how to make soap.

At the old market area a lady holding a puppet narrates a story of a little sick boy whose mother is travelling and needs someone’s help to buy him food to recover.

“Children must discover the food pyramid through posters to be able to find the food for him. Through this they also learn math and daily interactivity with life by knowing prices,” Hashem elaborates.

After this step children move to cook. “Many researches show that when children hold food they start to like it. We are trying to do this with kids today where they hold dough and understand how wheat is turned into bread.”

At the end, children wear doctor coats, visit the clinic, and start discovering patient’s problem through a human anatomy model. “All this is related to pneumonia, healthy nutrition, cleanness, and good health helps people avoid diseases.”

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