Freetown, 10 December 2009 - Significant efforts have been made by both government and development partners to address child survival in Sierra Leone, but the situation of over 2.7 million children (representing 48 per cent of 5.7 million people) remains hazardous with high levels of mortality and morbidity among children and women of child bearing age. This has predominantly been attributed to malnutrition, malaria, acute respiratory infections, endemic preventable diseases, inadequate and ill equipped health facilities, lack of trained and qualified personnel and other underlying socio-economic indicators of poverty including illiteracy.
Malaria remains the leading cause of mortality for children under five years of age in Sierra Leone. A child dies from malaria every 30 minutes despite the existence of methods to both cure and prevent the disease; 26 per cent of children under-five sleep under Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) and only 30 per cent children receive anti-malaria drugs within 24 hours of onset of symptoms. This means that the approach to malaria in Sierra Leone is still more curative than preventive. Sierra Leone has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, estimated at 140 per 1000 live births .
An analysis of recent data from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation indicates that over the past four months, there has been a significant increase in the number of children under five dying as a result of malaria. The situation is now considered as constituting a potential emergency.
This has mainly been attributed to shortage of anti malarial drugs, insecticide treated bed nets, equipment for rapid diagnostic test to be used for routine service delivery as well as weak monitoring and evaluation capacity.
In a joint statement Mr Mahimbo Mdoe UNICEF Representative and Dr Wondimagegnehu Alemu WHO Representative emphasised that “No one partner can do this alone. We as the UN family wish to make a strong call to all partners –bilateral, multilateral and private sector- both nationally and internationally to collectively join efforts at arresting and reversing this trend. This current trend of one in five children in Sierra Leone dying before the age of five due to easily preventable diseases is unacceptable and calls for immediate and concerted action.”
There is therefore an urgent need for 1.3 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets estimated at $10.5 million and various anti malarial drugs estimated at $6.4 million, totalling $16.9 million. This will be complemented with a massive campaign on promotion of good hygiene practices and correct use of insecticide treated nets to arrest malaria deaths and achieve universal access.
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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:
Alison Parker: Communication Officer UNICEF, Freetown,
Tel + 076912059,
Aminata Kobie :Communication Officer, WHO Freetown
Tel + 076723236,