NAIROBI, November 26 – Despite of hard-won gains, Africa and particularly Sub-Saharan Africa remains the most difficult place in the world for a child to survive, according to a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).,
The report, titled The State of Africa’s Children (SOAC) 2008 says with only 22 per cent of the world’s births, Sub-Saharan Africa now accounts for half of all under-five deaths.
The report shows that in 2006, five million African children died before reaching their fifth birthday, an average of 14,000 a day. Of the 10 countries that have highest under-five mortality rates in the world, Sub-Saharan African countries accounted for nine.
The inaugural report was launched in Nairobi on Tuesday by former President of Mozambique, Joachim Alberto Chissano.
During a press conference hosted by Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the renowned African leader called the report: “An excellent blueprint on how to accelerate the attainment of health-related MDGS”.
The inaugural edition of SOAC complements The State of the World’s Children (SOWC), the most comprehensive and authoritative report produced by UNICEF every year on the world’s youngest citizens. The report outlines some of the recent achievements in child survival and primary healthcare in Africa.
Between 1970 and 2006, Sub-Saharan Africa reduced its under-five mortality rate by just one third during the 36-year span.
The report urges all stakeholders – including governments, international agencies, Non Governmental Organisations, civil society and the private sector – to unite behind the goals of maternal, newborn and child survival.
“In the whole report the need of uniting efforts and solidarity is a common feature,” remarked President Chissano. “It is now time to renew our commitment and efforts towards child survival and health. Together we can succeed in our quest to achieve social justice and sound health for the African children.”
Earlier on Tuesday, President Chissano paid a visit to an impoverished community on the outskirts of Nairobi. He met with a mother who just delivered her twin daughters at a local clinic three weeks ago.
Through community health workers, Saumu Yusuf 27, heard about the health services offered at the clinic, and started going for regular check-ups during her pregnancy. She delivered her babies with the help of trained medical workers, and paid only Sh20 ($25 cents) for the service.
Not too far from Saumu’s home, Alice Koki 29, told President Chissano about the loss of her three-week-old baby. She delivered her child at home without any health worker’s assistance, except her friend, who cut the umbilical cord of the baby. She didn’t take her sick baby to the local clinic because she didn’t know that there were affordable services there. One night she put the baby to sleep, and he never woke up.
“We know the most effective way to save children’s lives is by investing at the community level,” said Olivia Yambi, UNICEF Representative in Kenya, who accompanied President Chissano in the field trip. “UNICEF strongly supports the decision by the Government of Kenya to focus on community level action and the empowerment of families to protect and ensure their children grow to their full potential.”
If Sub-Saharan Africa is to meet Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds by 2015, an annual mortality reduction rate of more than 10 per cent is needed over the next eight years.
“It is clear that we need strong political will from each African government,” said UNICEF Regional Director of Eastern and Southern Africa, Per Engebak. “There is no cause more important than ensuring our children survive and thrive with the best start in life.
“UNICEF’s is deeply grateful to President Chissano and his commitment to child survival,” continued Mr Engebak. “We are very pleased to have a respected African leader, a tireless humanitarian and an inspiration for good governance with us today. He is the perfect voice to help us advocate for children’s rights at the highest level.”