|© UNICEF DR Congo/2010|
|Leaders of DR Congo’s five major religious groups sit with UNICEF Representative Pierrette Vu Thi at a ceremony in Kinshasa in which the groups undertook to use their networks and resources to boost child survival rates.|
By Joyce Brandful
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, 30 March 2010 – UNICEF and five major faith-based organizations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have signed a historic partnership agreement to decrease child mortality.
The agreement is a pivotal component of DR Congo’s efforts to implement the Accelerated Strategy for Child Survival and Development (ACSD), an Africa-wide initiative to improve the chances of survival for young children at risk. To that end, UNICEF and the religious groups, using their nationwide networks, will promote five ‘key family practices’ to be followed within households.
During the signing ceremony, Minister for Health Dr. Makwenge Kaput commended the initiative, saying it would “contribute to improving child survival and accelerate the reduction of infant and child mortality in the DRC.”
‘Family and community involvement’
Added UNICEF Representative in DR Congo Pierrette Vu Thi: “This new partnership aims at establishing communication for long-term development, leading to sustainable and far-reaching results. The partnership will focus on family and community involvement, as indeed they are critical actors in improving the situation of children and women in the DRC.”
|© UNICEF DR Congo/2010|
|UNICEF Representative in DR Congo Pierrette Vu Thi signs an agreement that engages five major religious groups in an effort to combat child mortality.|
Approximately 554,000 children under the age of five – almost one out of five children in that age group – die each year in DR Congo. Most of these deaths are due to malaria, acute respiratory infections (in particular, pneumonia), diarrhoeal diseases, measles, HIV/AIDS, anaemia and malnutrition.
The ACSD agreement marks a commitment on the part of Christian, Muslim and traditional religions across this vast country to promote key practices on a large scale, in order to prevent young child deaths.
Promoting behaviour change
The five faith-based organizations were strategically selected based on their credibility and capacity to promote behaviour and social change, as well as their representation of a vast majority of the Congolese people. Together, their networks have the potential to reach more than half of the estimated 65 million people in DR Congo.
In Kinshasa, each of the five organizations will implement plans for promoting the key family practices through the end of 2012. More than 10,000 volunteers will be mobilized in the 24 communes of the capital for this purpose. Hundreds of teachers will also deliver complementary key messages in schools.
By the end of the three-year period, more than 1.7 million households comprising about 8.5 million individuals will have been reached in Kinshasa alone.
Beyond Kinshasa, four other provinces – Katanga, Orientale, North Kivu and Maniema – are finalizing their action plans and will join in promoting the key family practices in the coming months.