|© UNICEF Kenya/2008/ Sittoni|
|UNICEF Kenya Representative Olivia Yambi (left) and Former President of Mozambique Joachim Chissano hold newborns during a visit to Kenya's Majengo slum prior to the country launch of the State of Africa’s Children 2008.|
By Pamella Sittoni
NAIROBI, Kenya, 25 November 2008 – Former President of Mozambique Joachim Aberto Chissano launched The State of Africa’s Children 2008 Report, which was globally launched in May, in Kenya today.
The renowned African leader, who has pledged to work with UNICEF to advocate for children’s rights, said the report was “an excellent blueprint on how to accelerate the attainment of health-related MDGs.”
Mr. Chissano launched the report jointly with Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Public Health and Sanitation Minister Beth Mugo, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Per Engebak and UNICEF Kenya Representative Dr. Olivia Yambi.
“We know the most effective way to save children’s lives is by investing at the community level,” said Dr. Yambi.
Underscoring maternal health
Before the launch, Mr. Chissano visited Kenya's Majengo slum to underscore the importance of access to maternal and child health services.
There, he met with Alice Mutua, a mother whose baby died two months ago. Ms. Mutua told the former President how her baby had been delivered at home, with the assistance of only a friend, and died after three-and-a-half weeks.
“I went to the maternity hospital but was asked to pay 10 dollars, which I did not have. I was asked to return the next Friday to seek a waiver, but the baby came before that. Although he was premature, I could not take him to hospital because I had no money,” she said.
Both Mr. Chissano and Dr. Yambi called for investment in child survival in Kenya, particularly at the community level.
“The whole society needs to be involved. I told the Private Sector representatives that if they don’t invest in children today, they will not have manpower tomorrow,” said the former President.
At the launch, Kenya's Prime Minister outlined some of the country's initiatives aimed at reducing child deaths, such as the Malaria Prevention Strategy and an HIV/AIDS prevention strategy.
UNICEF’s Mr. Engebak called for strong political will from each African government to ensure children survive and thrive with the best start in life.
Unite behind a common goal
The State of Africa’s Children 2008 Report shows that in 2006, five million African children died before reaching their fifth birthday, an average of 14,000 a day. Of the ten countries that have the highest under-five mortality rates in the world, Sub-Saharan African countries accounted for nine.
The report urges all stakeholders – including governments, international agencies, non-governmental organizations, civil society and the private sector – to unite behind the goals of maternal, newborn and child survival.
Empowerment of African households and communities is crucial to improve the health and nutrition of mothers, newborns and children. This approach is particularly effective in countries and communities where basic primary health care is lacking.