The World Health Organisation and UN child agency on Monday launched a global action plan to fight pneumonia, which kills some 1.8 million children under five every year.

"Since we know what interventions work, we need to urgently implement them" to combat the ailment which is also the biggest killer of children under the age of five, said Anne Golaz, a senior health adviser at Unicef.

Golanz said 5.3 million young lives could be saved between now and 2015 if the measures were implemented.

The UN agencies stressed two key measures to combat the ailment: ensuring that every child is vaccinated, and is only breast fed for the first six months at least.

The WHO said the security and efficiency of vaccines have been proven. Golaz stresses that children who are exclusively breast fed during the first six months of their lives have a 23 percent less chance of contracting pneumonia.

"But only one third of children in developing countries are exclusively breastfed for the first six months," noted Golaz.

More than 98 percent of deaths linked to pneumonia are recorded in the poorest countries in the world, according to data from the UN agencies.