Pneumonia will kill nearly 11 million children under five years by 2030, experts warn Monday on a global day aimed at raising awareness of the world's largest infected infant killer.
While in the developed world, severe lung infection particularly affects elderly people, developing countries are children weighing with hundreds of thousands of deaths each year due to ill-prevented disease.
More than 880,000 children – aged less than two years – died from pneumonia only in 2016.
A new analysis by Johns Hopkins University and the Save the Children group using predictions based on current trends has shown that over 10.8 million under five years would suffer the disease by the end of the next decade.
In addition, a handful of countries are to bear the greatest burden, with 1.7 million children going to Nigeria and India, 700,000 in Pakistan and 635,000 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
However, there is good news.
The study, published on World Pneumonia Day, found that expanding the existing coverage of vaccination, along with cheap antibiotics and ensuring good nutrition for children could save a total of 4.1 million lives.
Pneumonia, an inflammatory lung infection that can be contracted by viral or bacterial infection, is treatable if caught early enough and the patient's immune system is not compromised.
But all over the world it hits small children who are often weak in malnutrition, killing more children each year than malaria, diarrhea and measles combined.
"It is believed that almost one million children die each year from a disease that we have the knowledge and resources of defeat," said Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children.
"There are no pink ribbons, global summits, or marches for pneumonia. But whoever takes care of children's justice and access to essential health care, this forgotten killer should be the defining cause of our time."
The Watkins group, which manages health programs in some of the countries most affected by the disease, has demanded that the prices of major vaccines for existing pneumonia be reduced "dramatically".
2030 is the target date for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which includes a commitment to "end the deaths of pre-emped children" by the end of the next decade.