I encounter all sorts of stories about children’s death in the course of my advocacy work in The Compassionate Friends, a grief support group for those who have lost a child. I often hear the word “if only”, “what if?” and so many words of regret and guilt. I can’t help but cry along with their heartbreaking stories. Sometimes, cause of deaths are accidental, congenital or some complication of a disease. In the Philippines alone, the statistics are alarming.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), up to 1 million children under the age of five die from pneumococcal disease every year. Pneumococcal disease includes serious, invasive diseases such as meningitis, pneumonia and blood infection (bacteraemia), to less severe, but highly prevalent diseases, such as otitis media, sinusitis and bronchitis. The WHO estimates reveal that over 90% of children’s deaths caused by pneumococcal disease occur in developing countries. Philippines is listed in the top ten of countries with this high mortality rate.


Each year, around 1 million succumb to Invasive Pneumococcal Diseases (IPD); including 82,000 Filipino children. WHO and UNICEF further underscores the importance of IPD by identifying its bacteria, Streptococcus pneumoniae, to be the leading cause of Pneumonia. In the Asia Pacific region alone, 98 children die from Pneumonia every hour – more than AIDS, malaria and measles combined. My friend lost her 4 year old daughter due to this type of pneumonia. Thinking it was just high fever and bad cold, she didn’t know that one of her lungs was already filled with water. At that time, she wasn’t aware that there was a vaccine against pneumonia or it was even there.
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