TVC E. A mother from a working-class district of Abidjan watches fearfully while the physiotherapist presses down on the thorax and abdomen of her crying, struggling baby to help him breathe.

Under the health worker’s expert hands, the infant gradually expels the secretions clogging up his lungs through his nose and mouth. His mother looks astonished and the therapist keeps working until her child’s airways are completely clear.

Respiratory physiotherapy is critically needed in Ivory Coastwhere pneumonia is second only to malaria as a killer of babies and toddlers. The charity Agis (Association Graine d’Ivoire et Sante), founded in 2010 by Aboubakar Sylla, a physiotherapist himself, trains volunteer staff in the massage techniques to serve the poorer neighbourhoods of the commercial capital and towns in the interior of the west African country.

Their work is linked in with medical consultations and “schools for mothers“, where women are taught how to help keep their little ones safe from infection and to treat them if they fall sick.

Affects children under five

The World Health Organisation reports that respiratory infections in 2015 claimed the lives of more than 900,000 children under the age of five around the globe.

The World Health Organisation reports that respiratory infections in 2015 claimed the lives of more than 900,000 children under the age of five around the globe.