In January, eastern Punjab saw around 300 deaths and over 18,000 pneumonia cases. Unicef reports that approximately half of childhood pneumonia deaths are linked to air pollution. In response, the provincial government has extended school holidays, reduced classroom hours, and made face masks mandatory to protect children. Despite these efforts, Children’s Hospital Lahore continues to admit hundreds of pneumonia cases daily.
The smog that blankets the city each winter has created some of the worst air pollution levels in the world. A particularly dry and cold winter has made children more susceptible to respiratory infections. Rashid Liaquat, whose three-year-old son Mohammad Ali was diagnosed with pneumonia after developing a high fever, described how frightening the experience was. Thankfully, Ali was fully vaccinated and on the road to recovery, although many children are not. Dr. Junaid Rashid stressed the importance of vaccination, especially considering the prevalence of misinformation about vaccines.
Free jabs for respiratory diseases are available at six, 10, and 14 weeks of age, but increasing vaccine uptake remains a challenge. In addition to air pollution, premature births and malnutrition also contribute to the vulnerability of children to pneumonia.