Enhancing new-born and child care in Liberia
A new handbook on new-born and child care for community health workers will contribute to better health care services for hard to reach communities in Liberia.
MONROVIA, Liberia, 4 February 2014 – Over 30 community health workers, county health directors, senior health ministry officials and programme staff are field testing the new WHO/UNICEF handbook on new born and child care. The three-day workshop is facilitated by experts from UNICEF, WHO and Save the Children.
The workshop will educate participants on effective health practices on newborn and child care that they can put in place in their own communities in Liberia. At the end of the workshop, participants will develop a plan to implement practices learned during the workshop such as umbilical cord care and kangaroo mother care.
Speaking at the inaugural session today, UNICEF Representative Sheldon Yett said that skilled and empowered frontline health workers were key to delivering life-saving health care services for new born and children in deprived and hard to reach areas.
“Equity needs to be the heart of what we are doing. We need to be doing more to reach the most vulnerable communities and ensure that members in the communities have access to better new born and child care,” he said.
Mr. Yett added that despite Liberia achieving the fastest U5 child mortality reduction rate in Africa, over 12,000 children die every year mostly from preventable and treatable diseases such as malaria, acute respiratory illnesses and diarrhoea.
“Thirty two children die every day from preventable diseases. These children might have been with us today if they received basic and timely health interventions,” he said, adding that malnutrition is the underlying cause for one-third of all child deaths in Liberia.
Assistant Health Minister Tolbert G. Nyenswah said that the high stunting rate of 36% was unacceptable and that the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) initiative, in addition to the introduction of integrated Community Case Management (iCCM) of childhood illnesses in the five impoverished South East counties would alleviate child malnutrition and hence further reduce child mortality.
“We are aware of our challenges and we are not complacent. We are committed to reduce child mortality in the country,” he said adding that the collective efforts of international partners and a strong and committed government were reasons for Liberia’s achievements.
“The handbook will be very useful for us to train general community health volunteers in new born care at the community level and to disseminate essential nutritional messages among communities for proper growth and development of children,” said Netus Nowine, county health director from Grand Gedeh county. He added that the handbooks will contribute to further strengthening iCCM interventions in the communities.
In 2013, UNICEF supported the Government of Liberia to further strengthen and expand community health structures in 769 communities by training 230 general Community Health Volunteers (gCHVs) in Maryland and Grand Gedeh counties. They were trained on integrated Community Case Management (iCCM) of common childhood illnesses. An additional 315 gCHVs in River Gee and Sinoe counties will be trained in the first quarter of 2014.
According to the 2013 Health Management Information System (HMIS), approximately 40% of the estimated 4 million people in Liberia lack access to healthcare, defined as living more than five km from a health facility. UNICEF Liberia is supporting the government to implement high impact and low-cost health interventions especially in the most difficult to reach population in impoverished South East Liberia.
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