|A girl peeks out from the doorway of her home in Djibouti’s drought-ravaged Tadjoura District. In ‘The State of Africa’s Children 2008’, UNICEF argues that child survival in Africa must become a global imperative.|
By Mihoko Nakagawa
YOKOHAMA, Japan, 28 May 2008 – UNICEF globally launched ‘The State of Africa’s Children 2008: Child Survival’ in Yokohama City, Japan, on the occasion of the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV).
Presiding over the launch of this first-ever report of its kind were H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia; H.E. President Jakaya Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania and Chairperson of the African Union; and H.E. Itsunori Onodera, Japan’s Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Also on hand were UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, Goodwill Ambassador Youssou N’Dour and World Bank Vice-President for the Africa Region Obiageli Ezekwesili.
Child survival in Africa
Every year, nearly 10 million children die before their fifth birthday, and half of these deaths occur in Africa, Ms. Veneman pointed out.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the mortality rate for children under the age of five decreased by 14 per cent between 1990 and 2006. However, with one in every six children dying before their fifth birthday, sub-Saharan Africa still remains the most difficult place in the world for a child to survive.
“As the record shows, many children in Africa die from preventable diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections,” noted Ms. Sirleaf. “So much more needs to be done for the achievement of Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5” – the MDGs on reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.
“For children, we want Africa to be the best place to begin their life,” said Mr. Kikwete.
In 2006, the total number of annual deaths among children under five fell to 9.7 million, representing a 60 per cent drop in the rate of child mortality since 1960. This rapid reduction in child mortality worldwide was feasible because of sound strategies, adequate resources, political commitment and broad collaboration.
And significant progress is already being made in several countries in Africa, including the world’s least developed ones. For example, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia have recently reduced their child mortality rates by at least 45 per cent, while Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi and Mozambique have cut theirs by 40 per cent of more.
The essential services and practices required to avert child deaths in Africa are well established.
The community-based, integrated health approach needs to be scaled up, said Ms. Veneman. This approach includes life-saving interventions such as immunization, insecticide-treated mosquito nets, vitamin A supplementation, and education for mothers on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and good hygiene.
Moving forward with partners
‘The State of Africa’s Children 2008’ urges all stakeholders – governments, international agencies, non-governmental organizations, communities and the private sector – to unite for child survival.
“The public has some of the responsibility. We all need to respond for the achievement of goals,” said Mr. N’Dour.
“The international community must support the efforts for child survival,” added Mr. Onodera.
In partnership with UNICEF and others, the Government of Japan will support health interventions such as immunization and provision of vitamin A to save the lives of 400,000 children over the next five years.
As Ms. Veneman asserted, the survival of Africa’s children must become a global imperative. With just seven years before the 2015 deadline for achieving the MDGs, she said, progress needs to be accelerated.