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Technical bases for the WHO recommendations on the management of pneumonia in children at first-level health facilities.
Geneva, Switzerland, WHO, Programme for the Control of Acute Respiratory Infections, 1991.  p. (WHO/ARI/91.20)About 13 million children under 5 years of age die every year in the world, 95% of them in developing countries. Pneumonia is one of the leading causes, accounting for about 4 million of these deaths. Despite this fact, for a combination of technical and operational reasons, pneumonia has been a neglected problem until very recently. Clinicians and epidemiologists thought that the control of respiratory infections did not deserve high priority because of the difficulties involved in preventing and managing these infections; it was said that antibiotics might not be an effective treatment against pneumonia because patients are often weakened by conditions such as chronic malnutrition and parasitic infections, and that a wide variety of viruses and bacteria are associated with pulmonary infections making it impossible to identify the specific etiological agent in each patient (1.) On the other hand, some public health experts felt that a programme aimed at preventing mortality from pneumonia could not succeed because it would be difficult to deliver the available technology (antibiotics) through peripheral health units and community-based health workers. At most, one quarter of the pneumonia cases in children can be prevented by the measles and pertussis vaccines included in the immunization schedule of the Expanded Programme on Immunization. There is a clear need for research to develop and test vaccines against the most frequent agents of pneumonia in children. Such research has been pursued by WHO, notably within the Programe for the Control of Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI) and the Vaccine Development Programme; however, WHO has simultaneously been utilizing current clinical knowledge to formulate a case management strategy to reduce the high mortality from pneumonia in children. The present document is not intended to provide detailed case management guidelines. These are to be found in the manual "Acute respiratory infections in children: Case management in small hospitals in developing countries. A manual for doctors and other senior health workers", document WHO/ARI/90.5 (1990). (excerpt)