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UNICEF-supported Mother and Child Health Week reaches millions of children in Madagascar

© UNICEF Madagascar/2011/Raharijaona
As part of the Mother and Child Health Week campaign, mothers with children under five were offered a packet of integrated, high-impact and life-saving interventions.

By Narindra Raharijaona

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar, 27 October 2011 – Last week, Madagascar celebrated Mother and Child Health week, a nationwide health campaign supported by UNICEF and partners to address the lack of access to basic health services for mothers. The campaign sought to enable the delivery of high-impact, low-cost child survival interventions including vitamin A supplementation for new mothers and children under five, deworming and routine immunizations, HIV testing for pregnant women, and screening for malnutrition.

An additional goal of the campaign was to promote exclusive breastfeeding for children up to five months old.   

‘Health is priceless’

Early and exclusive breastfeeding is widely regarded as an important intervention that reduces neonatal, infant and child mortality. Thirteen per cent of all deaths of children younger than five could be prevented by promotional strategies to increase breastfeeding rates.

“The bi-annual Mother and Child Health Weeks offer mothers and children under five a packet of integrated, high-impact and life-saving interventions,” said UNICEF Representative in Madagascar Bruno Maes. “This is hugely significant in a country where health services are only used by 33 per cent of the population and where maternal and child mortality remains high.”

© UNICEF Madagascar/2011/Raharijaona
Elysa Rasoanatoandro with her 22-month-old child, Rojo, at the Alasora Health Center in Madagascar.

At the Alasora Health Center, Elysa Rasoanatoandro, a mother of six, has brought her 22-month-old daughter Rojo to receive vitamin A supplementation and deworming treatment. She has made sure that all of her children, including Rojo, have received all routine vaccinations since birth. For Elysa, this is the best gift she can give them “because their health is priceless,” she explained.

UNICEF provides support

According to Sahondra Razanarisoa, head of the health center in Alasora, during the previous campaign in April 2011, 3,438 children received deworming treatment, and 277 received vitamin A at the clinic. “This time we are targeting 541 children with vitamin A supplementation,” she said.

Access to basic health services in Madagascar remains low for several reasons. In recent years, the lack of funding has led to a severe erosion of services, shortage in medicine and a lack of qualified personnel. For many people, access is limited due to distances and poor roads in remote parts of the country.

“UNICEF has always been, and will remain, here to support the women and children of Madagascar in overcoming the challenges they face in their daily lives,” explained Mr. Maes. “Mother and Child Health Weeks are a way of reaching them, and fortunately, despite Madagascar’s recent socio-political crisis, this initiative, introduced in 2006, has continued with the support of all partners in the health sector.”



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