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Volume 686: debated on Thursday 2 November 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their response to the United Nations Children's Fund and the World Health Organisation's report Pneumonia: The Forgotten Killer of Children.[HL7684]

The UK welcomes this report which aims to raise awareness about childhood deaths caused by pneumonia and the actions required to prevent it.

Pneumonia causes almost 20 per cent of under-five mortality worldwide, which is more than 2 million child deaths each year. This is more than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

Effective actions, such as awareness in recognising the signs of the disease and subsequent treatment with antibiotics to reduce these deaths are available but reach fewer than 20 per cent of children in need. Scaling-up treatment coverage is possible and at a relatively low cost.

Child health is a priority for the UK but maternal, newborn and child health are linked and must be addressed together. There is global consensus that improving women's health and status is essential to reducing child mortality. This link is key to the UK's strategy in health.

However, there is no one single “quick win” to making progress to achieving millennium development goal 4—reducing child mortality. Global efforts to prevent child deaths increasingly recognise the need for a fully functioning health service. A central requirement to this is a long-term and significantly increased financial commitment to countries to enable governments to address systemic challenges, including the human resource crisis, as well as providing drugs and vaccines.

In 2005 at Gleneagles, the G8 and other donors pledged historic increases in their aid budgets to provide an extra $50 billion a year by 2010 with half of this going to Africa. In May this year, African heads of state set out their own plans to tackle AIDS, TB and Malaria and to improve basic health services. They called for the support of the international community, including long-term funding commitments, to help them plan for the long term. The UK is working with other donors to make sure they get this support.

DfID's own recent White Paper recognises this and we are committed to providing 50 per cent of our direct support to developing countries’ plans to improve basic services: education, health—including HIV and AIDS—water and sanitation and social protection.

DfID is a major supporter of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) which seeks to ensure that all children are vaccinated. We are also promoting an advance market commitment (AMC) to develop a pneumococcal vaccine suitable for developing countries.

DfID also contributes to the core work of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) (£19 million) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) (£12.5 million).