Integrated Health Strategies Can Save Children’s Lives, says UNICEF Flagship, State of the World’s Children Report 2008
TEHRAN, 22 JANUARY 2008 – The need for more integrated health strategies and a stronger engagement of community members to further reduce global child mortality rates are among the key recommendations highlighted in the latest edition of UNICEF’s annual State of the World’s Children report*, which was launched simultaneously in many countries across the globe today.
“The report, which focuses on child survival, states that for the first time in recent history the global number of children who die before their fifth birthday has dropped to below 10 million,” said Christian Salazar, UNICEF’s representative in Iran, at a press conference held together with Iran’s Ministry of Health.
“This figure, which represents a 60 per cent drop since 1960, is indeed very good news. However, at the same time the death of 9.7 million children every year – more than 26,000 each day, 40 per cent of them in the first month of their life – is not acceptable. The report clearly outlines that a number of measures have to be put in place to reach the ambitious goals of Millennium Development Goal 4,” he said.
The target of MDG 4 is to reach a two-thirds reduction of under-five child mortality by 2015, bringing the total figure down to less than 5 million. According to the report, Iran’s under-five mortality rate has dropped to 34 per 1,000 children, which means that it is on track to reach MDG 4, faring better than the average of the Middle East region (46/1,000)**. Globally, the under-five mortality rate has reached 72/1,000, down from 93/1,000 in 1990.
“Iran’s policy to promote breastfeeding, control diarrhoeal diseases and acute respiratory infections, to strengthen health education, and improve children’s vaccination levels as well as the water and sanitation situation has been successful in bringing down the country’s under-five mortality and maternal mortality rates,” said Dr. Seyed Moaed Alavian, Iran’s Deputy Health Minister.
“Now, the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness, the training of mothers and families on health care issues and the integration of health teams and family physicians are our hopes for further improving the health of children in Iran, and to decrease maternal mortality rates,” he added.
Mr Salazar congratulated Iran on this positive record and urged that disparities in the country be addressed with the similar vigour. “Most children in Iran clearly have the good luck to live in the better half of the world,” he said.
On a global scale, the new UNICEF report identifies three priority areas that need to be tackled in order to achieve MDG 4: to focus most strongly on the world’s 60 poorest countries with the highest child mortality rates, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia; to package essential services together in an integrated approach on child health and poverty reduction; and to boost community participation and behaviour change strategies throughout the world.
For Iran, UNICEF recommends the rapid scaling-up of successful community-based models to bring into the fold those children that have so far remained difficult to reach with health initiatives. A good example for such models are the 160 Nutritional Counseling Centres that were created troughout the country. In locations such as Sistan-Baluchistan, they have considerably contributed to reducing under-five mortality rates through measures that included practical nutrition training and awareness-raising on health issues through advisory services.
In addition, UNICEF Iran calls for a plan of action that identifies in detail how the recently developed child-health policy shall be implemented. Finally, UNICEF also urges government representatives, religious leaders, heads of communities and civil society to get engaged in a broad mobilization campaign for child survival and poverty reduction in Iran.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
**UNICEF groups the Islamic Republic of Iran in its Middle East and Northern Africa region (MENA)