|Fact sheet No 178: Reducing Mortality from Major Killers of Children - Revised September 1998 (WHO, 1998, 7 p.)|
Acute respiratory infection (ARI), mostly in the form of pneumonia, is the leading cause of death in children under five, killing over two million children annually. Up to 40% of children seen in health clinics are suffering from ARI and many deaths attributed to other causes are, in fact, "hidden" ARI deaths.
In most cases, pneumonia can be effectively treated with low-cost oral antibiotics. The problem is that children may die very quickly from the infection and thus need treatment urgently.
IMCI reduces the death toll from ARI in developing countries by promoting:
· Prompt recognition of pneumonia;
· Rapid treatment with antibiotics;
· Rapid referral of the most serious cases;
· Improved home management;
· Prevention through immunization, reduced indoor air pollution, and improved nutrition, including breastfeeding;
Health workers following the IMCI approach learn the importance of classifying the severity of respiratory infections by observing the child for two key signs of pneumonia - chest indrawing and fast breathing. They are also aware that children suffering from other conditions, such as malnutrition or measles, are particularly susceptible to pneumonia, and thus they are on the lookout for the early signs of the disease to ensure rapid treatment.