|© Morocco/Hassan Zouitni|
|Queen Rania of Jordan, UNICEF’s Eminent Advocate for Children, gives oral polio vaccine to a child during a visit to the Doukara Health Centre in Fez, where she was welcomed by Princess Lalla Meryem of Morocco.|
FEZ, Morocco, 2 June, 2007 – On the second day of her official trip to the Kingdom of Morocco, Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan, UNICEF’s Eminent Advocate for Children, took time out to visit the Doukara Health Centre in the heart of one of the country’s most underprivileged neighbourhoods.
Queen Rania was welcomed to the centre by Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Meryem, sister of the King of Morocco and President of the National Observatory for Children’s Rights.
Princess Lalla Meryem and Queen Rania were briefed about Morocco’s national immunization programme and the Kingdom’s promotion of breastfeeding and micronutrients to combat anaemia and vitamin A deficiency. Both initiatives are supported by UNICEF.
Queen Rania joined Princess Lalla Meryem, a longtime patron of the national immunization programme, in talking with many mothers at the health centre and even helping to immunize some of their children against polio.
Services for mothers and children
The Doukara centre does more than just provide immunizations, however. It provides mothers a range of services to ensure the well-being of children, while also protecting the health of their mothers.
Zeinab, the mother of Nafissa – one of the babies who received oral polio vaccine drops administered by Queen Rania and Princess Lalla Meryem – said she was pleased with the safe, efficient and friendly services provided by the centre.
“I come regularly to the centre for Nafissa’s vaccinations,” Zeinab said, adding that she visits the facility for her own reproductive health care as well.
|Princess Lalla Meryem of Morocco gives polio vaccine to a baby during her visit with Queen Rania to a health centre for mothers and children.|
Progress made, but more to do
As a nation, Morocco has made significant progress in the field of vaccination coverage. The Kingdom, which buys its own vaccines and also procures them through UNICEF, currently has a vaccination coverage rate of over 90 per cent rate.
In addition, it has been able to more than halve the mortality rate for children under the age of five – down to 40 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005, from 89 per 1,000 in 1990.
Yet even with its successes, Morocco continues to combat infectious illnesses such as diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections that are the leading cause of death among young children in the country. These problems are often associated with, and worsened by, malnutrition.
Technical and financial support
Maternal and neonatal mortality rates are another area of ongoing concern. Currently, some 1,300 women die in Morocco each year as a result of complications from childbirth, and 27 babies out of every 1,000 born will die during their first month of life.
Morocco has set ambitious goals for itself to significantly reduce these numbers. It aims to halve the number of neonatal deaths by 2015 (in keeping with Millennium Development Goal 4), as well as reduce the number of maternal deaths to a third of the current level by that same year.
UNICEF continues to support the Government of Morocco by providing technical and financial assistance to fight malnutrition and eliminate measles and rubella, among other initiatives. This year, UNICEF is funding a $3 million national vaccination campaign to be launched in October, with an equal amount being invested by the government.
Anwulika Okafor contributed to this story from New York.