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New initiative to reduce child and maternal mortality gets underway in Southern Sudan

Torit, 20 March 2009 – The Ministry of Health of the Government of Southern Sudan, backed by UNICEF and other partners, today unveiled a further effort to reduce child and maternal mortality with the launch of the Accelerated Child Survival Initiative (ACSI) in Eastern Equatoria state that will eventually roll to the other nine states of Southern Sudan.

ACSI delivers an integrated package of life-saving services including polio and measles vaccination, de-worming, provision of vitamin A supplements and anti-malarial bed nets, along with the promotion of good health practices such as breastfeeding and hand washing. In Southern Sudan, the aim is to ensure that between 63 and 74 per cent of children under the age of five will have benefited from these services within the first year.

By delivering these services directly in the heart of communities, ACSI is a critical step towards strengthening routine health care programmes, and as it develops the initiative will build-in training and other capacity-building elements for local health workers, using the existing foundations provided by structures such as the Expanded Progamme on Immunization and its network of local vaccination teams.

Speaking ahead of the launch UNICEF’s Director of Operations in Southern Sudan Peter Crowley pointed to the long-term benefits of the ACSI approach, saying “We know from experience across Africa that accelerated child survival and development programmes, which focus on simple but effective health activities, can reduce child mortality by an average of 20 per cent.”

“Improved infant and child feeding practices, routine immunization using new vaccines, practical measures that prevent malaria, promotion of health and hygiene education, tackling mother to child transmission of HIV, and providing enhanced skills training for community health workers will all contribute to a healthier generation of children and women, and to the broader development of Southern Sudan,” he added.

Considerable progress has been made in improving basic health care for children and women in Southern Sudan since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005; the Mass Measles Campaign has delivered significant success, with over 3.7 million children immunized against the disease in the last four years, while last year alone more than 1.25 million anti-malaria bed nets were distributed with UNICEF assistance, and more than 260,000 people were provided with new sources of drinking water through UNICEF-assisted programmes alone.

However, despite the achievements, according to the 2006 Sudan Household Health Survey, estimated under-five mortality rates in parts of Southern Sudan are as high as 192 deaths for every 1,000 live births – much greater than the national average of 112 deaths.

“These are the lives that ACSI sets out to save,” affirmed Mr. Crowley. “We know that this package of services can reduce child mortality, and with the leadership demonstrated by the Government of Southern Sudan, and the continued support of the UN agencies and non-governmental organizations; PSI, Merlin, Caritas, Malaria Consortium, ADRA, AAH, NCA and the Diocese of Torit among others, along with the generosity of donors including Japan, Denmark, Rotary International, the Bill Gates Foundation, GAVI fund and the Centre for Diseases Control(CDC) we are confident that Southern Sudan can make a critical contribution to the global Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds before the year 2015.”

On the eve of this important new development in delivering basic health care in Southern Sudan, UNICEF noted in particular the efforts of The Minister of Health for Eastern Equatoria, Her Excellency Florence Nighty Otto, in leading a Ministerial Steering Committee – including participation from the Ministries of Education, Science and Technology, Information and Communication, Physical Infrastructure, Social Development, and the Southern Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission to ensure a multi sector approach to the planning and implementation of ACSI.  The Governor of Eastern Equatoria, His Excellency  H.E Brigadier Gen. Alusious Ojetuk Emor, also played a key role in supporting and facilitating the work of the ministerial committee and mobilizing the state structures down to grassroots level.

About UNICEF

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.

For more information, please contact:
Edward Carwardine, Chief, Media & External Relations, UNICEF Sudan, Mobile: +249 (0)912 177 291, Email: ecarwardine@unicef.org
Bismarck Swangin, Communication Officer, UNICEF Southern Sudan, Tel +882 1643 339 905, Email: bswangin@unicef.org


 

 

 

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