First Lady of Sierra Leone Urges Mothers to take Preventive Health Measures during the Integrated Health Week
Kenema, Sierra Leone, 4th December 2008 - “Take your children to the health centers for immunization; don’t forget to sleep under insecticide treated bed nets; always wash your hands with soap and always go to the hospital for treatment and advice when you are not feeling well because well bodi na gentri! (health is wealth). As mothers, you must always choose safer methods of delivering babies. UNICEF and other partners are supporting the Government of Sierra Leone on preventive measures to reduce the alarming rates of child and maternal mortality in this country. We must stop the crying and take preventive measures!”
That was how the First Lady of Sierra Leone, Madam Sia Koroma, admonished pregnant women and mothers of children who are below the age of five at Talia village, Kenema, eastern Sierra Leone during the Integrated Health Week activities otherwise known as the Mami en Pikin Well Bodi Week.
The Mami en Pikin Well Bodi Week is an integrated package of preventive health services aimed at achieving high coverage in health care delivery to women of child bearing age (15 – 49 years) and children who are below the age of five nationwide. The health services included among others de-worming and administration of vitamin A to children; vaccination of women against tetanus and distribution of long lasting insecticide treated bed nets. The campaign also contributed through awareness raising activities in increasing the number of children who are exclusively breastfed in their first six months and people who practice hand washing with soap at critical times.
Over 2,000 mothers with their children queued at various health centers in Kenema only to receive these health services.
“I hope you shall allow your children to sleep under these bed nets and be free from malaria”, added the First Lady as she and the Seconded Lady of Sierra Leone, Madam Sam-Sumana distributed bed nets to mothers and children in Kenema.
“My babies and I will always sleep under the bed nets to avoid malaria”, said Sally Sheriff, a young mother who has just given birth to twins. “And with the education on nutrition I just received, my babies will grow healthily and live long”.
‘Let me use this opportunity to say boku boku tenki [many thanks] to all of you mothers and children who have turned out in large numbers at the various health centers for these exercises”, said Geert Capperlaere, UNICEF Representative in Sierra Leone. “This shows how much dividend the efforts of the Government and development partners are yielding on the Health sector to promote good health behaviour in order to reduce maternal and child mortality in Sierra Leone”.
Sierra Leone has the world’s worst child and maternal mortality indicators; under-five mortality rate is estimated at 267 per 1,000 live births and maternal mortality is 1,300 per 100,000. 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.
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. Similar activities were held in all the 13 districts of Sierra Leone.