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Second round of Child Health Days aims to boost child survival in Somalia

© UNICEF Somalia/2009
A health worker fills in the registration card at the Child Health Days campaign site in Gabiley town, north-west Somalia.

By Iman Morooka

GABILEY, Northwest Somalia, 3 September 2009 – Building on the success of the six-month-long Child Health Days initiative that began late last year, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) have kicked off the second round of a campaign to reach every Somali community with a life-saving package of essential services for children and women.

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More than 50 local and international partner organizations are participating in this massive undertaking. In August, some 5,000 trained health workers launched the renewed drive in Somaliland, north-west Somalia. Mobile teams used donkeys and camels as modes of transport to remote, mountainous areas that vehicles can’t reach.

Safeguarding quality care

Child Health Days boost immunization rates and promote child and maternal health. The campaign in Somalia aims to raise awareness about the importance of immunization and health services for children and women, and encourage communities to take an active role in safeguarding children’s right to quality care.

During the first round of Child Health Days – which ran from December 2008 to June 2009 – almost million Somali children under the age of five were immunized against polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus. They received vitamin A supplements and de-worming tablets, as well. Over 700,000 women of child-bearing age were immunized against neo-natal tetanus. T

The Child Health Days package also includes oral rehydration salts to prevent diarrhoeal dehydration, and water-purification tablets.

© UNICEF Somalia/2009
Ayan Ibrahim with her six-month-old child, who was vaccinated against polio and DPT as part of Somalia’s second round of Child Health Days; Ms. Ibrahim herself was immunized against tetanus.

Lack of access to health services

These essential services are crucial in a country with one of the world’s lowest routine immunization rates, where millions of children and women lack access to quality health facilities and services.

“I came today to have both myself and my children vaccinated,” said Ayan Ibrahim, a mother of six. “The benefit of this campaign for us is that it comes to us, and we receive additional services that we don’t [normally] receive. It makes a difference.”

At each campaign site, children’s nutritional status is screened by means of measuring their mid-upper arm circumference. Children found to be malnourished are referred to the nearest feeding programme to receive the necessary medical and nutritional treatment.

Lessons learned

WHO Somalia Medical Officer Dr. Abraham Mulugeta said that lessons learned during the first round of the child health campaign have “helped us in improving the planning and implementation of the second round.”

Added UNICEF Somalia Health Officer Mohamed Jama: “Political and religious figures, teachers, women’s groups, parents and community-based organizations are all supporting the implementation of this activity in different forms…. This commitment is contributing to our targets – to reach all children under five in Somalia, to reduce child mortality and morbidity in the country.”

The Child Health Days in Somalia are made possible by funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency; the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance; the Governments of Denmark, Japan and Norway; the UK Department for International Development; the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization; the UN Foundation; the Canadian International Development Agency; the Danish Committee for UNICEF; and the US Fund for UNICEF.




20 August 2009:
UNICEF’s Denise Shepherd-Johnson reports on the second round of Child Health Days in Somalia.
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