UNICEF Regional Director in Sierra Leone: “With passion and dedication you will build a new country”
Freetown, Sierra Leone, 15 July 2009 – “I have been very gratified to observe the steady progress made since the end of the conflict. With passion and dedication, you will build a new country”.
This was how Dr Gianfranco Rotigliano, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa responded to the health challenges confronting children and women in during his first visit to Sierra Leone from 14 – 17 July 2009.
Dr Gianfranco visited the modern facility of the Kono Maternity Complex on Wednesday, July 15 which was funded by the Italian National Committee for UNICEF in response to scale up efforts at addressing maternal and child health in Sierra Leone, which are amongst the highest in the world.
“Since this hospital was opened in August last year, we have witnessed an increase in the number of pregnant women who come here for safe delivery”, said Dr Bome, District Medical Officer of Kono. “From 161 patients between July and December 2008 to 262 between January to June this year”.
Progress made in child and maternal health
With one in every eight pregnant women running the risk of death during child birth, emergency obstetric care is therefore crucial in addressing maternal health and contributing to improve the overall dire human development situation in the country.
At the Peripheral Health Unit at Koaquima the Regional Director met with members of the Mother’s club who are promoting the continuum of care from pre-natal through under five at community level covering issues such as hygiene promotion, good nutritional practices for both pregnant women and new born, exclusive breastfeeding and immunisation.
“I have been giving exclusive breast milk to my 5 months old baby and that is why it is so healthy”, explained Sia, 32, of the Koaquima Mothers Club in Kono.
The mothers’ clubs also cultivate crops which are partly used to support healthy nutritional practices for their children. Part of the proceeds are also used to support their children’s education, especially that of the girl child.
Meeting with the children's government
At the Bandafaye Community School, Dr Rotigliano dialogued with the ‘Children’s Government’ as child ‘ministers’ explained the importance of education, health and sanitation to him.
The Children’s Government acts as lead advocates in fostering behaviour change on key issues bordering on the welfare of children in their community.
“Wash your hands everyday with soap before eating and after using the toilet to prevent diarrhea and cholera”, was the advice Musa, 10, gave to his colleagues. He is the ‘Minister of Health’ in the Children’s Government.
“I am very much impressed with your activities and I hope one day you will be ministers to help in building a brighter future for your country”, Dr Rotigliano concluded.