Maria, the eight-month old in this photo, has been coughing for two weeks. She arrived here at CEML Hospital on the same day as I. Maria was breathing heavily, coughing constantly, and her chest demonstrated every sign of pneumonia. Her chest X-ray showed the right upper lung saturated with infection. Were she in North America, a host of tests would reveal the exact organism causing her pneumonia. But in this extremely low-resource setting we simply choose the most probable, and initiate treatment.
Ten days have now past. Maria is coughing less and no longer requiring oxygen. Still, her fever continues and she’s feeding poorly. I’m quite concerned this baby will succumb to pneumonia – the leading killer of children worldwide. What can possibly be done to protect such children? The most basic is to provide them adequate nutrition, vaccination, and protective housing. Giving their mothers a sound basic education is also proven to promote the health of their kids. On top of all this, initiating treatment at the first sign of pneumonia is lifesaving. Had Maria been treated in the days prior to meeting me, chances are she’s be home playing instead of residing at our CEML Hospital.