|UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman holds a child after a community meeting on an innovative child survival programme in Akuka, a rural settlement in Upper East Region, Ghana.|
By Yves Willemot
AKUKA, Ghana, 27 July 2006 – UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman is currently on an official three-day mission to Ghana. Together with Mali, Benin and Senegal, Ghana is one of the four pilot countries where the Accelerated Child Survival and Development Strategy (ACSD) has been in place since 2001.
Ms. Veneman is in Ghana to see just how the programme has made a concrete difference for children and their communities – and how the initiative can be scaled up to save even more children’s lives.
This accelerated approach is designed to rapidly reduce mortality and malnutrition in children under five in areas with high mortality rates by scaling up the most proven, cost-effective health and nutrition interventions for children and women.
The approach has been adopted by the Ministry of Health in Ghana as one of the main strategies to reduce child and maternal mortality nationwide, under the name High Impact Rapid Delivery (HIRD).
High-impact ACSD/HIRD interventions include: immunization, vitamin A supplementation, exclusive breastfeeding, complementary feeding, use of insecticide-treated bed nets, treatment of malaria using antimalarial drugs, management of diarrhoea using oral rehydration therapy, intermittent preventive treatment of malaria during pregnancy, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. All these interventions are implemented at the community level.
|UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman (left) congratulates students who are participating in an HIV/AIDS peer education programme during her visit to a Junior Secondary School in Akuka, Ghana.|
Visiting local communities
Earlier today Ms. Veneman visited two local communities in the Upper East Region of Ghana. Akuka is one of the 900 communities in the region that has benefited from ACSD intervention packages. During her visit Ms. Veneman was shown how UNICEF – working closely with the Ghana Health Service – has built on existing networks such as the Red Cross Mothers’ Clubs to prevent and manage common childhood illnesses.
Members of these mothers’ clubs have been trained in promoting health messages. The mothers were provided with basic health kits and bicycles by UNICEF to carry out their tasks. Later Ms. Veneman visited the community of Asoegoe, where the same approach and set of health interventions has been implemented.
Ms. Veneman visited a small exhibition displaying material and ACSD interventions used by the members of the Asoegoe mother-to-mother support groups. Items on display included insecticide-treated bed nets, antimalarial drugs, oral rehydration salts and health education materials.
|UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman (right) attends a community demonstration of the use of mosquito bed nets in Asoegoe, a rural settlement in Upper East Region, Ghana.|
Making a difference
Since 2001 UNICEF’s health programmers in Ghana have worked closely with the Ministry of Health in the Upper East Region to reduce high levels of child mortality using the ACSD approach.
After 18 months of implementation – January 2002 to July 2003 – the Ghana Health Service has been able to increase the number of children sleeping under impregnated bed nets from 4.6 per cent to 21 per cent, the use of oral rehydratation therapy to treat diarrhoea from 35 per cent to 65 per cent, and the full vaccination of children between 12 and 23 months from 67 per cent to 77 per cent.
Between 1998 and 2003 child mortality rates in the Upper East Region dropped significantly from 155 of 1000 live births to 79 of 1000 live births. The ACSD approach may have contributed to a projected 14 per cent reduction in the under-five mortality in the Upper East Region by raising coverage levels of key child survival interventions.
The Accelerated Child Survival and Development approach has proven to be extremely successful in reducing high child mortality rates in those regions and districts where it has been implemented.
Throughout her mission in Ghana Ms. Veneman aims to see for herself how this programme can be further developed to reach more children in Ghana and in the rest of the region. West and Central Africa face one of the highest child mortality rates in the world: one child in five never reaches his or her fifth birthday.
29 July 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Kun Li reports on Executive Director Ann M. Veneman's visit to Ghana.
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