The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) mid last week called upon all African countries to introduce essential services and practices that are required to prevent child deaths.
This was during the commemoration of the international Day of the African Child (DAC) that falls on June 16 every year.
Under the theme “Africa Fit for Children: A Call for Accelerated Action Towards Child Survival,” a statement from the organization’s headquarters notes that although several African countries have made impressive gains in child survival, a lot more still needs to be done.
According to the concept note, improved antenatal care and skilled attendance at birth; early and exclusive breastfeeding followed by appropriate complementary feeding are vital if child survival is to be guaranteed.
Immunization against vaccine-preventable childhood diseases, adequate nutrition, protection against and treatment of malaria as well as treatment for mothers and children living with HIV must also be strengthened among others.
“Where community-based integrated health systems are in place, many young lives can and have been saved. There are signs of progress across the continent and these successes must be built upon,” the Executive Director of UNICEF, Ann M. Veneman was quoted saying.
Citing measles deaths that have decreased by a whooping 89 percent in sub-Sahara Africa, over the last seven years, the document highlights that concerted efforts by governments and international partners are important if immunization is to be boosted.
Rwandan statistics on maternal deaths however reveal that the rate has dropped by 30 percent since 2005 and government aims at reducing it even further by 50 percent and childhood deaths by two-thirds by 2015.
“Although the figures may be better this year, a lot still needs to be done because annual statistics still show that about 2,767 women still die during pregnancy or immediately after and 13,000 children die before their first birthday,” the Minister of Health, Dr. Richard Sezibera recently said.
The Minister of Local Government, Protais Musoni, also unleashed a strategic action plan at the local levels which is set to audit maternal and child deaths.
According to Musoni, this system will significantly curb the mortality rates at the grassroots as the community will be directly involved in raising solutions to the problem.
In relation to this year’s DAC theme, government has focused on inculcating a culture of kitchen-gardens in a bid to grow more fruits and vegetables that will meet the nutritional needs of children country-wide.