Integrated Health Week in Sierra Leone aims at reducing inequities in access to healthcare
Freetown, 20th November 2008 - The Ministry of Health and Sanitation, in collaboration with UNICEF, WHO, Helen Keller International, Save the Children UK, the Sierra Leone Red Cross and other stakeholders, will undertake a week-long integrated health activities in all 13 districts nationwide aimed at preventing illness and deaths among the most vulnerable; children under the age of five years and women (15 – 49 years). The event known as the Integrated Health Week otherwise known as the Mami en Pikin Well Bodi Week, will take place between the 22nd and 29th November 2008.
This campaign coincides with the 19th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and is used to launch the Sierra Leone’s Child Rights Act (CRA) which was enacted by Parliament in June 2007. The CRA provides the relevant framework for Sierra Leone to develop a protective environment for children as well as meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The Mami en Pikin Well Bodi Week will deliver an integrated package of preventive health services aiming to achieve high coverage for related interventions thereby reducing inequities in health care delivery in the communities. Countrywide, the activities include the following: supplementation of vitamin A to children between 6 and 59 months; children in this category will also receive mebendazole; women of child bearing age (15 – 49 years of age) will receive tetanus toxoid vaccines; and children 0 – 6 months will receive long lasting insecticide treated bed nets. The activities are also expected to contribute to increasing coverage of children who complete full immunisation; increasing the number of children who are exclusively breastfed in their first six months, and increasing the number of people who practise hand washing with soap at critical times.
The activities will include the conduction of a health fair that will provide opportunity for health professionals to reach out to people especially mothers and care-givers of children under the age of five years with health services and information. Among other activities in the health fair are growth monitoring of children; immunization; demonstration of good nutritional practices (including exclusive breastfeeding); HIV counselling, education and distribution of insecticide treated bed nets and demonstration of hand washing with soap.
“The high rates of infant and maternal mortality in Sierra Leone are linked to several factors, including limited health infrastructure and some misconceptions about nutrition and child care”, said Geert Capperlaere, UNICEF Representative in Sierra Leone. “As development partners, it therefore makes sense to support the Government in initiating this Integrated Health Week and consequently intensifying provision of health services and promotion of good health practises”.
Malaria is the leading cause of illness and deaths among children under the age of five in Sierra Leone. It accounts for over 40 per cent of all diseases reported at health facilities and over 38 per cent of deaths of children under the age of five. Neonatal tetanus is responsible for 23 per cent of infant mortality.
Like most developing countries, vaccine preventable diseases rank among the major causes of illness and deaths in Sierra Leone, especially of children who are under one year due to low immunization rates. Currently, full immunization coverage is 54 per cent and measles’ immunization is 73 per cent. Acute respiratory infections rank second among the major causes of morbidity and mortality of children under the age of five with a prevalence rate of 11 per cent while pneumonia accounts for 19 per cent.
“The implementation of the reproductive and child health policies with support from health partners – UNICEF, UNFPA, WHO and DfID – has provided an important framework to address the numerous problems related to the high maternal and child mortality rates in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals set on Health”, said Dr Soccoh Kabia, Minister of Health and Sanitation.
As Sierra Leone continues to grapple with the challenges of human development, maternal and child health continue to remain major concerns with the highest child and maternal mortality rates in the world The MDG’s projection for the reduction of under-five mortality in Sierra Leone is to reduce it to 101 per 1,000 live births by 2015 from its present 267 per 1,000 live births. This means a reduction of child mortality of about 11 per cent annually. In order to achieve this, Sierra Leone needs to invest in increased efforts in the Health sector. This week therefore provides a platform to make a stronger call on Government, development partners and other stakeholders to unite in their efforts and commitments to address maternal and child health.
The Mami en Pikin Well Bodi Week will be held bi-annually every May and November to provide opportunities to scale up evidence based and cost effective integrated child survival interventions through out the country.
All the statistical indicators in this Press Release are quoted from the 2005 Mid-term Cluster Survey
For more information, please contact:
Issa Davies, Communication Officer, UNICEF, tel: +232 076 601 310