|© UNICEF Ghana/2006|
|Members of the Akuka mothers' club record their songs in a studio.|
By Dan Dzide
AKUKA, Ghana, 23 October 2006 – In Akuka, a small farming community in the Upper East Region of Ghana, music produced by a mothers’ club is making a tremendous difference in saving children’s lives from common childhood diseases.
The lyrics offer practical advice on a wide range of children’s health issues, including immunization, breastfeeding, the use of insecticide-treated bed nets and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The songs also teach mothers about good hygiene and sanitation practices.
The mothers’ club is led by a talented local composer of traditional music, Aberige Awoligu. “Composing songs comes to me naturally,” said Ms. Awoligu. “I am happy to use my God-given talent to help save the lives of babies and mothers in my community.”
The work of the Akuka mothers’ club is a highly significant effort in a country where some 74,000 children under the age of five continue to die from preventable causes every year. One of the factors behind these deaths is lack of knowledge among families on how to manage and treat childhood illness, particularly in poor and hard-to-reach communities.
Reinforcing health messages
The Akuka club has 45 registered members and meets twice a week under a big shady baobab tree to rehearse new songs. Some members also visit homes in the villages to reinforce messages on the integrated management of childhood illness.
“We perform in individual homes, especially homes with babies, to ensure that we practice what we preach,” said Ms. Awoligu. “It is important for us to do this because we all have a tendency to forget.”
Through the combined efforts of UNICEF, the Ghana Health Service, the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation and the regional Red Cross Society, the music of the Akuka mothers’ club is now reaching an even bigger audience. The group has recorded its songs on CD and audio cassette, and translated them into several local languages.
Reduction in child mortality
The Akuka club is only one of hundreds of Red Cross mothers’ clubs that help reach women – many of whom cannot read or write – with life-saving messages across northern Ghana.
Such clubs are also one of the key components of the Accelerated Child Survival and Development (ACSD) approach that UNICEF piloted four years ago in the Upper East Region of Ghana. At the time, the region had the third-highest child mortality rate in the country.
In 1998, the under-five mortality rate in the Upper East Region was 155 deaths per 1,000 live births. By 2003, it had fallen to 79 per 1,000. While not entirely responsible for this sharp decline, ACSD was credited with contributing to 14 per cent of the reduction in child mortality by significantly expanding the reach of key health interventions.
Convinced of its potential for similar results throughout the country, the government of Ghana has now adopted this approach and is planning to scale it up as a strategy to reduce child mortality nationwide.
23 October 2006:
Listen to one of the songs performed by members of a mothers’ club in Akuka, Ghana, where music helps to give children a healthy start in life.