Three youth activists fighting pneumonia, the “forgotten” epidemic

Pneumonia kills more children than any other infection, claiming the lives of over 800,000 children under five every year, many of them newborn babies. Despite this, progress on reducing pneumonia deaths is significantly slower than other major killers of children, like Malaria or diarrhoea.

However, youth around the world are fighting to end this “forgotten” epidemic. Meet three young leaders taking part in the Global Forum on Childhood Pneumonia, in Barcelona, and learn how YOU can get involved.

Follow us on Twitter to know more about the participation of youth in the fight against pneumonia. And share your views, opinion and stories on this or any other issue you care about here, or using the hashtag #voicesofyouth in your social media content.


Daryl Alvarez, Spanish activist

Daryl Álvarez, 25, Spain 

"Even though childhood pneumonia is the leading cause of death in children under 5 years old; people are not aware of it, especially young people. One of the main reasons for a problem to be unsolved is the lack of awareness about it. If there is not a debate about it, if people don’t talk about it, we will never give childhood pneumonia the priority and the urgency it deserves.  

Furthermore, it is crucial for the youth to play a role on this front. Young people will be the one taking over the responsibility of taking further steps to fight against childhood pneumonia and to make sure that the socio-economic status of families don’t determine whether children will be able to survive or not.  

With a group of ten young people, we have collected through a survey the opinion of more than 350 young people from 44 different countries on childhood pneumonia. From the data collected, we have developed a paper and a video that portray the opinion of the youth and the main areas they consider crucial for the international community to work on; while at the same time raising awareness on childhood pneumonia. With the support of Unicef, these findings will be presented at the Global Forum on Childhood Pneumonia, being able to give a voice to the youth in the creation of measures to end with this epidemic. 

One of the things that stop people from getting involved is thinking that they won’t be able to have an impact and that they have no power to change this situation, but the involvement of all of us is crucial to end with the high mortality of children due to this disease. Every action counts; even simply talking about it with your family and friends; or spreading information about how to prevent the spread of the disease and how to identify the symptoms. There are several ways to collaborate; you just need to find yours. We always need to remember that big changes start from small actions."

Amanda Mustard for Johns Hopkins

Niruta Bishwokarma, 13, Nepal

"When I was 12, I was hospitalized with severe pneumonia for nearly two weeks. My family did not know if I would survive, and it was a traumatic experience for us all. It took me many months to recover, and my family is still paying off the debt from my hospitalization.

I know there are effective ways to prevent and treat pneumonia, but they are not available to everyone; poor families like mine are often unable to access life-saving vaccines, early medical treatment, and hospital care like the ventilator that saved my life.

Since my hospitalization I have been invited to participate Every Breath Counts Coalition, which is organizing this week’s Global Forum on Childhood Pneumonia. I am proud to sign on to our Youth Call to Action and to continue advocating for increased action to better prevent and treat this deadly disease.

I hope that other Nepali youth and parents will take the time to read our Call to Action and advocate to their local representatives. We should all be having a conversation at the local, national and global level about how dangerous this disease is, and how important it is to better prevent and treat it."

Credit: Ridhima Pandey


”I decided to get involved in the fight against pneumonia because we children are not the ones who are creating all these pollution. But we are the ones who are vulnerable and effected by it in large.

As I am raising my voice, I am trying to make people aware and make them realize what negligence costs us . It nearly costs us our lives and our physical development.

I also go to various schools all over India to make children aware about our surroundings and also take part in events, seminars, conferences and campaigns. 

When others realize what their negligence has a cost for children, they must be ready to support us and take action to demand our policy makers to give a better environment for kids.”


  • Because it kills more children than any other infection, claiming the lives of over 800,000 children under five every year! 
  • Because almost all these deaths are preventable.
  • Because there is a global shortage of health workers to prevent, diagnose and treat it.
  • Because progress on reducing pneumonia deaths is significantly slower than other killers of children.
© UNICEF/UNI279403/Modola