|© UNICEF video|
|Child Health and Sanitation Week features events to reduce child deaths and disease by promoting better health, sanitation and hygiene practices in Pakistan.|
By Sandra Bisin
TAKHTBAI, Pakistan, 5 May 2008 – In the remote town of Takhtbai in the North West Frontier Province, people took to the streets recently in a march to raise awareness during Pakistan's biannual Child Health and Sanitation Week.
In the course of the week, events to reduce child deaths and disease by promoting better health, sanitation and hygiene practices were launched in six districts across the country. Activities included the provision of free immunization and deworming services for children, as well as information about the importance of exclusive breastfeeding, oral rehydration salts to treat diarrhoeal dehydration, and safe drinking water.
“In my family and the community, there have been deaths of children because of diarrhoea and other diseases,” said 36-year-old Javeda Iqbal, a mother of three. “When we hear about them we really get scared. We are looking for more sources of information so we can try and prevent these deaths.”
Every day, about 1,100 Pakistani children under the age of five die of diarrhoea and diseases related to water, sanitation and hygiene. By integrating child and maternal health care with vital interventions, UNICEF and its partners hope to reduce Pakistan's high burden of child mortality.
During Child Health and Sanitation Week, community leaders such as imams were also mobilized to speak on the importance of safe drinking water and hygiene practices. “The problem here is that people are not very aware or well educated in health and hygiene,” said an imam in Takhtbai, Maulana Mohammed Burhan.
The week began as a pilot programme in 2007. The most recent series of events was launched on 21 April by UNICEF, in collaboration with Pakistan’s National Programme for Family Planning and Primary Health Care, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Environment and others.
“Child Health and Sanitation Week is an opportunity for UNICEF and its partners to raise awareness about the impact of poor sanitation and hygiene practices on children, families and communities,” said UNICEF Representative in Pakistan Martin Mogwanja.
Through Child Health Weeks, the Government of Pakistan, UNICEF and its partners hope to increase awareness at the very start of the summer, when children face a higher risk of contracting water-bourne diseases.