30 million African children could die in the next seven years – WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned African Heads of State that the continent could lose about 30 million children in the next seven years if they did not curb the rising child mortality rate.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned African Heads of State that the continent could lose about 30 million children in the next seven years if they did not curb the rising child mortality rate.

The warning was issued by the WHO, regional Director for Africa, Dr. Luis Sambo, during a media workshop for journalists on maternal, newborn and child health issues in Cape Town, South Africa.

The message was especially addressed to leaders from the sub Saharan Africa where States have registered a slow progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) to reduce the mortality rates of child, maternal and newborns.

"If our target is 2015 (MDG target), then let us strive to avoid mourning the death of over 30 million innocent African children who would have died in the seven years between now and then. Rather, let us celebrate the fulfilment of a promise. As servants, let us faithfully serve those who hold the future of our continent - and these are the mothers and the babies that they bear," said Sambo. His message was read by WHO Representative to South Africa, Stella Anyangwe

Sambo added that children and mothers in Africa now face the gravest challenges in terms of survival.

He also said that despite having only 10 per cent of the world’s population, the African continent accounts for 44 percent of the world’s under-five mortality and 60 per cent of maternal mortality.

While denouncing the increasing death of the African children, Sambo stressed that children under the age of five years usually die of preventable causes.

He added that in sub-Saharan Africa, 1.16 million babies die every year in the first month of their lives.

"Another million babies are stillborn. Newborns hold every country’s promise for a future, yet they are Africa’s forgotten children. The death of a newborn is a common yet preventable tragedy in many parts of Africa," Sambo stated.

He hinted that both the WHO and UNICEF have developed the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) as a tool to reduce child morbidity and mortality.

He urged governments to emphasise more on newborn care, infant and young child feeding- including micronutrient supplementation- and prevention of malaria using insecticide-treated nets.

Other areas should be immunisation, management of common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and care and treatment of HIV-exposed or infected children.

The WHO Africa chief disclosed that the road map for accelerating the attainment of the MDG targets related to maternal and newborn health was developed by WHO and its partners in 2004 and is being implemented in a number of African countries.

He stated that governments at all levels on the continent must ensure that everyone, and indeed every mother, newborn and child receives the health care they need, when they need it. He explained that all levels of the health system, including the community level, must be strengthened to achieve the aim.

Sambo noted that governments in Africa still allocate inadequate budget to health care delivery. He p[ointed out that most countries on the continent spend as low as US$10 (approx. Frw 5,500) per-capita instead of US$34 (Aprrox. Frw 18,000) as recommended by the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health for a basic package of essential health interventions.

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