NEW YORK, 16 June 2009 – Several African countries have made impressive gains in child survival in recent years but much more needs to be done, UNICEF said today in marking the International Day of the African Child. This year’s theme is “Africa Fit for Children: A Call for Accelerated Action Towards Child Survival".
“Where community-based integrated health systems are in place, many young lives can and have been saved,” said Ann M. Veneman, UNICEF Executive Director. “There are signs of progress across the continent and these successes must be built upon.”
For example, measles deaths in sub-Saharan Africa have fallen by a remarkable 89 per cent between 2000 and 2007, through concerted efforts by governments and international partners to boost immunization.
Although more than half of the 9.2 million annual deaths of children under 5 occur in Africa, some of its least developed nations -- Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi and Niger, for example -- have reduced their under-5 mortality rates by 40 per cent or more since 1990.
The essential services and practices required to avert child deaths in Africa include improved antenatal care and skilled attendance at birth; early and exclusive breastfeeding followed by appropriate complementary feeding; immunization against vaccine-preventable childhood diseases; adequate nutrition; protection against and treatment of malaria; treatment for mothers and children living with HIV and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV; improved drinking-water sources, sanitation facilities and better hygiene practices. Packaging these interventions together and delivering them to mothers and children as part of a continuum of care increases their effectiveness.
At the request of the African Union, a strategic framework to support African countries in their efforts to reduce the toll of maternal and child deaths has been developed by the World Health Organization, the World Bank, UNICEF and UNFPA. The framework outlines a three-phase approach to lowering child mortality – a minimum package, an expanded package and a maximum package of essential services for mothers, newborns and children.
“It is possible to meet the challenge of helping many more African children survive,” said Veneman. “The progress that has been made is measured in young lives, and more children can be saved by urgent collective action to scale up existing programs that have proven successful.”
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 further information, please contact:
Shantha Bloemen, UNICEF South Africa, Tel +27 11517-1617,