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Nepal a world leader in boosting child survival, despite conflict: UNICEF

KATHMANDU, 18 September 2006 - Nepal is one of only seven countries in the world on track to cut child mortality by two thirds between 1990 and 2015.

This is one of the findings from a global assessment by UNICEF and its partners of 60 countries with high child mortality, published in a special edition of The Lancet today, and being discussed at the Child Survival Symposium in New York.

The findings suggest that Nepal’s success in cutting child deaths should be highlighted and shared with the rest of the world.

“There are four main ways to cut child deaths,” Dr Suomi Sakai, UNICEF Representative, said today.  “The first way is to prevent illnesses from happening by giving vaccines and Vitamin A supplementation."  Nepal managed to eliminate neo-natal tetanus last year, and the national measles campaign in 2004-5, which reached more than nine million children in all districts, cut measles deaths by 2,500.

“More work still needs to be done to increase routine immunization, and the country still needs to be vigilant against polio,” Dr Sakai said.  “But the measles and other campaigns demonstrate that the adults of Nepal can and do work together, despite the conflict, to put the health of their children first."

“The twice-yearly Vitamin A supplementation has cut mortality by about 30 per cent and is a key factor in Nepal’s success in boosting child survival,” she noted.

Dr Sakai said that the second way to cut child deaths was to promptly treat diseases such as pneumonia with antibiotics, and to treat diarrhoea with oral rehydration salts, and now with zinc to reduce severity and duration.

The third way was to improve newborn and maternal health as the survival of babies is closely linked to the care given to mothers during pregnancy, delivery and after the baby is born.  The final way concerned improving nutrition: about half of all child deaths in Nepal are linked to undernutrition.  About half Nepal’s children were underweight.

Dr Sakai noted that the greatest gains had been made in the areas of vaccination and Vitamin A supplementation, and in the treatment of pneumonia and diarrhoea.

“A key reason is that much of this work is done by an extraordinary network of some 48,000 Female Community Health Volunteers,” Dr Sakai said.  “They work in their communities, they know the mothers and their children, and they help keep the children in their villages healthy and alive."

“They are truly the heroines of Nepal,” she said.

Dr Sakai said that she was delighted that the work of Ganga Thapa, an FCHV from Pokharibhanjyang VDC, Tanahun District, was being featured at the Symposium, and on the UNICEF main website: http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/nepal_35925.html

Finally, Dr Sakai noted that, despite the gains, it was still important to remember that some 65,000 children under five still died each year in Nepal.  Mortality was consistently higher in rural areas compared with urban areas, and in the mountainous areas compared with the hills or terai.

“It is my hope that the work on the structures for peace will also be work to improve the health of the children of Nepal,” she said.

***

About UNICEF
For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 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.

For further information, please contact:

Rupa Joshi, UNICEF: Tel. 552 3200 (Ext. 1179) – Mobile: 98510 54140,  rjoshi@unicef.org


 

 

 

Video

14 September 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Jane O’Brien reports on the Female Health Care Volunteer programme and its effect on child survival in Nepal.
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