World Health Day: promoting child survival
Maputo, 6 April 2007- On 7 April the world unites to celebrate the World Health Day. The theme for this year is “international health security” and aims to raise awareness on the need to reduce the vulnerability of people around the world to new, acute or rapidly spreading risks to health, particularly those that threaten to cross international borders.
Over the last decades, new diseases began emerging at the unprecedented rate of one or more per year. It is estimated that from 1973 to 2000, over 39 infectious agents capable of causing human disease were newly identified. Increasingly, health issues present new challenges that go far beyond national borders. The rapid spreading of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, for example, is threatening the stability of entire regions and nations, demonstrating the potential impact of a public health issue on security. In 2006 alone, an estimated 39.5 million people in the world were living with HIV/AIDS.
In Mozambique as well, AIDS-related diseases are emerging as a major cause of mortality among children. About 17 per cent of all child deaths were a result of HIV-related illness in 2006 and there are about 99,000 children living with HIV and AIDS.
But AIDS-related diseases are not the only threat to child survival in the country. Malaria and acute respiratory illness are still the two leading causes of illness and death among children, and water-borne diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea also pose a significant threat due to poor access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.
Over the past two decades, the under-five mortality rate in Mozambique decreased from 219 to 152 per 1,000 live births and the maternal mortality ratio dropped from a high of 1,000 to 408 per 100,000 live births. However, gains in child and maternal well-being have not been even across the country and large numbers of children and women, especially those living in remote rural areas, remain at risk. Around 320 children under five die every day mostly due to preventable and treatable diseases.
To address this issue, UNICEF is supporting the Government and working with partners to provide training for primary health care workers and community health workers in the integrated management of childhood illnesses, emergency obstetric care and neonatal care. UNICEF is also supporting the immunization of children against vaccine-preventable diseases and distributing insecticide treated mosquito nets to households looking after vulnerable children.
To ensure that children living in remote areas are reached, UNICEF and partners are supporting the Ministry of Health to implement the Reach Every District (RED) approach, which includes outreach services carried out by health units.
UNICEF and partners also support the Governmen to rehabilitate or construct low-cost water and sanitation facilities in communities, health facilities and schools. Community facilitators and activists are trained in community awareness-raising on safe hygiene and the importance of clean water and sanitation to fight off opportunistic diseases related to HIV infection.