|© UNICEF Côte d’Ivoire/2008/Westerbeek|
|Djelika, 6, surrounded by her family in Abobo hospital in Côte d’Ivoire. They were fortunate to have access to life-saving malarial treatment.|
By Sacha Westerbeek
ABOBO, Côte d’Ivoire, 18 August 2008 – Djelika Mariko, 6, woke up in a hospital bed after having been in coma for two days. Her parents had taken her to the hospital after she fell sick, only to discover that their daughter had contracted malaria. When Djelika opened her eyes, her parents were overjoyed.
“It was only four days ago when our daughter was not feeling well,” Ms. Mariko said. “She was complaining of a headache and was trembling a lot. After a short while, she fell unconscious. I was extremely scared as I had never seen her like this before.”
Malaria is very common in Côte d’Ivoire, and especially so in the area of Abobo, where the Mariko family lives. Only 6 per cent of children in the country sleep under an insecticide-treated mosquito net.
“She never had malaria like this before,” said the mother of three, who has already lost one child to what their local doctor thinks was probably malaria.
Receiving adequate health care
The Mariko family is not alone in their loss of a child. In 2006, their country ranked 26th highest in mortality rates for children under the age of five. Still, the Mariko children do not sleep under a bed net.
When faced with the symptoms of malaria, many families in Côte d’Ivoire would have tried to administer cost-saving home treatments first. Only 36 per cent of children under five who are suffering from a fever actually receive anti-malarial drugs.
Djelika was fortunate in this way. Although her parents don’t make enough to send Djelika to school, they do have a means of income. So the family pooled their savings to take their sick child to the hospital, a choice that can make the difference between life and death for many children.
Malaria also can be particularly dangerous during pregnancy, as it can lead to anaemia, premature delivery and low birthweight.
Support from the Government of Japan
For several years, UNICEF and the Government of Japan have been working to reduce the hold that infectious diseases have on the children and families of Côte d’Ivoire. Japan will support health interventions – such as providing insecticide-treated bednets to pregnant women and children – to save the lives of 400,000 children here over the next five years.
In May of this year, 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. At the launch event, Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Itsunori Onodera noted Japan’s commitment to this cause. “The international community must support the efforts for child survival,” he said.
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