Angola, 1 April 2013: In Angola, sharing the recipe for happiness to end preventable child deaths
By Olívio Gambo
In Angola, volunteers are going door to door armed with the Recipe for Happiness, a kit that promotes 12 household behaviours that can help prevent child deaths.
LUANDA, Angola, 1 April 2013 - Early in the morning, Maria Isabel walks along the streets of the Cantinto neighbourhood of Kilamba Kiaxi municipality, Luanda province, knocking on doors to talk to the locals about A Receita de Felicidade (Recipe for Happiness).
She carries out her work with a smile, despite the heat of the sun. Her job is to visit two families a day, which means that, by the end of the month, she has visited 15 families twice.
High child mortality rates
Despite a significant reduction in the child mortality rate over the past decade - 20.6 per cent, between 2000 and 2011, from 199 to 158 per 1,000 live births - Angola's child mortality rate is still among the highest in the world. The Government is investing in primary healthcare, including such life-saving interventions as immunizations and treatment for malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea.
But these efforts need to be complemented by simple, effective preventive household measures.
According to UNICEF Representative in Angola Koenraad Vanormelingen, "More than half of infant mortality is caused by diseases like malaria, diarrhoea and respiratory infections that can be avoided by adopting simple, but essential, life-saving practices at the household level."
Mothers are often unaware of methods such as washing their hands with soap and water at appropriate times, ensuring that family members sleep under mosquito nets treated with insecticide, and exclusive breastfeeding for six months.
There is also a need to complement these life-saving behaviours with measures to promote adequate child development, such as birth registration and early stimulation.
Recipe for happiness
The Recipe for Happiness, which was developed jointly with the community, is a communication package for promoting 12 key behaviours that can help prevent some of the major diseases that kill children, as well as support early child development. Volunteers like Ms. Isabel are trained to promote the knowledge in their communities.
The programme is implemented by the main churches, in partnership with the Government of Angola, and with UNICEF support.
"Our hospitals are full of sick children; our children are dying every day of diseases that can be prevented. That is why we are helping mothers understand better about how to care for their children and reduce infant mortality," explains Ms. Isabel.
Ms. Isabel has seen the results of the programme first-hand. "People in the community always give me a warm welcome when I knock on their doors," she says. "I see everyone is learning to trust me more and more. They think the advice they are getting from the Recipe for Happiness is important to protect and ensure a brighter future for the children. Sometimes, if I do not make the visits, the families call me or come looking for me to ask for advice about their children’s welfare."
A better life
Following a visit from a volunteer like Ms. Isabel, Madalena Paulino obtained birth certificates for her children. "Today, my daughters have birth certificates, so they will be able to study, work and have a better life," she says, proudly, as she displays the birth registration booklets.
In order to get her daughters registered, Ms. Paulino first had to return to where she, herself, was born, a journey of some 400 km, and register her own birth.
"After I knew the importance of registering births," she says, "I made every effort to register myself so I could register my daughters. I wanted them to have the right to be normal citizens so they don’t have to go through what I did all these years, unregistered and without the possibility of going to school."