|© UNICEF South Africa/2009/Mfeka|
|A nurse administers vitamin A supplements and de-worming medicine during South Africa's first Child Health Week.|
CAPE TOWN, South Africa, 31 March 2009 – UNICEF teamed up this month with the National Department of Health to launch South Africa’s first-ever Child Health Week, which was held from 23 to 29 March. The seven-day event was designed to promote critical interventions for improving the health of children under the age of five.
The Child Health Week focused on four key districts in Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and North West provinces, which are all lacking in adequate health services. Children in these districts received a package of high impact, low-cost interventions, including immunization, vitamin A supplementation, de-worming and growth monitoring – all of which are essential to improving their health and nutrition status.
The lessons learned during the provision of services to these four underserved districts should help to create a blueprint for scaling-up such activities for a national child health campaign, which will be rolled out in September to 52 districts across the country. The national campaign is expected to reach some 4 million children under five.
UNICEF has provided extensive technical support to the National Department of Health in the development of a strategic plan for overcoming the challenges that hinder the delivery of optimal, equitable health care services to women and children.
UNICEF Representative in South Africa Aida Girma, who participated in the Child Health Week launch in Ilembe District, KwaZulu-Natal, said UNICEF considered the week to be a key mechanism for delivering high-impact, low-cost interventions where children reside – a goal set by the Department of Health’s 18 Priority District Initiative.
“We believe that if these interventions are undertaken twice yearly, as is the plan this year, they will significantly contribute to improving coverage of life-saving health and nutrition interventions, such as vitamin A supplementation ... and de-worming,” said Ms. Girma.
Such initiatives are expected to further the country’s progress towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals – in particular MDG4 regarding child survival and development.
‘UNICEF remains committed’
In addition, the Child Health Week provided catch-up immunizations to children, increased community awareness of the importance of key family care practices, and documented the lessons learned in rendering these integrated services – to ensure the maximum coverage and impact of future Child Health Weeks.
|© UNICEF South Africa/2009/Mfeka|
|UNICEF Representative in South Africa Aida Girma speaks at the launch of Child Health Week in Kwa-Zulu Natal province.|
Underscoring the importance of documentation, UNICEF South Africa’s Chief of Child Survival and Development, Dr. Ngashi Ngongo, said that the evidence gathered during Child Health Week will enable the country to demonstrate the impact of integrated child health services in bettering outcomes for children.
UNICEF also expressed its commitment to help strengthen government efforts to improve child survival and the overall nutritional well-being of South Africa’s women and children.
“UNICEF remains committed to providing support to the government for the implementation of the national strategic plan, particularly in the most deprived districts,” said Dr. Ngongo. “This includes the development of a comprehensive and coordinated framework for provision of health and nutrition services, and the strengthening of community-based health and nutrition programmes.”