Five major faith-based organisations join UNICEF to accelerate the reduction of child mortality in the DRC
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, 17 March 2010. The United Nations’ Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and five major faith-based organisations in the Democratic Republic of Congo - the Catholic church, (represented by the Archdiocese of Kinshasa), the Church of Christ of Congo (Eglise du Christ au Congo), the Congolese Islamic community (Communauté Islamique au Congo) the Kimbanguiste church), (Eglise Kimbanguiste) and the Charismatic Church of Congo (Eglise du Réveil) today signed a historic partnership agreement aimed at accelerating the reduction of child mortality in the country. Dr MAKWENGE KAPUT, DRC’s Minister for Public Health presided over the ceremony.
UNICEF’s Rerpesentative in the DRC, Pierrette VU THI, signed on behalf of UNICEF, while the five organizations were represented by Monseigneur Laurent MONSENGWO PASINYA (Archbishop of Kinshasa), Monseigneur MARINI BODHO (National President of Christian Council), Reverend Nlandu Ndombasi Sebastien (Cabinet Director for the Spiritual Head of the Kimbanguistes), Reverend KANKIENZA MWANA MBO (National President of the Charismatic Church of Congo) et Sheik MANGALA ABDALAH (National President of the Islamic Community).
This Agreement is a pivotal component of DRC’s efforts to implement the African Strategy for Child Survival and Development (ACSD), an Africa-wide initiative to improve the chances of survival for Africa’s children. UNICEF and the five religious groups will promote five Key Family Practices within households and families, using the latter’s nationwide structures and networks.
During the signing ceremony, the Minister for Health Dr MAKWENGE KAPUT commended the initiative saying it would « contribute to improving child survival and accelerate the reduction of infant and child mortality in the DRC.”
Pierrette VU THI stressed that “this new partnership aims at establishing communication for long term development, leading to sustainable and far reaching results. The partnership will focus on family and community involvement, as indeed they are critical actors in improving the situation of children and women in the DRC.”
Available figures indicate that, approximately 502,000 children die each year in the DRC. One child out of seven dies before the age of five. Majority of these deaths are due to malaria, acute respiratory infections (in particular pneumonia), diarrhoeal diseases, measles, HIV/AIDS, anaemia and malnutrition. Six to eight cases out of every ten deaths occur at home, and often before the patient reaches a health centre, or within 30 minutes following the child’s arrival at the health centre.
The major faith-based organizations, UNICEF and the Ministry of Health all affirm that these preventable deaths can be avoided for the most part, if households and families adopt key family practices such as exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, complete vaccination of pregnant women and children before they attain the age of 12 months, hand washing with clean water and soap or ash, the correct treatment of diarrhoea, as well as the regular and correct use of insecticide treated bed nets.
In Kinshasa, each of the five organizations will implement plans for promoting the key family practices from now till the end of 2012. Over 10,000 volunteers will be mobilized in the 24 communes of the capital for this purpose. By the end of the three year period, more than 1.7 million households (about 8.5 million individuals) would have been reached in Kinshasa alone. In addition, hundreds of teachers will also deliver complementary key messages to some 1 million pupils in the schools run and managed by these five religious groups.
With this official signing ceremony, the five organisations and UNICEF will effectively commence the promotion of the key family practices in Kinshasa as from April 2010. Four other provinces - Katanga, Orientale, North Kivu and Maniema, are finalizing their action plans and will join in the promotion of the key family practices before the middle of the year.