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UNICEF pins on a white ribbon

© UNICEF Malaysia/2008/Tee
Ribbon Week was organised by nursing students of Nilai University College to create awareness of various health issues, particularly maternal and child survival.

By Tee Shiao Eek

NILAI, Negeri Sembilan, 22 September 2008 – For a week, the starched white uniforms of the nursing students and trainees of Nilai University College bore splashes of red, green, pink and white.

These colourful ribbons were worn during Ribbon Week, organised by the university's Nursing Diploma students, to increase awareness of various health issues – with white for maternal and child health, pink for breast cancer, red for AIDS and green for organ donation.

During his address to 200-odd nursing students and trainees who attended the session on maternal and child health, UNICEF Representative to Malaysia Mr Youssouf Oomar urged them to think of every child as their own child.

“You are members of a sacred profession. Your job is to nurse and give comfort to your patients. Always think: ‘What if that child was my child?’” Mr Youssouf advised.

Improvements in child and maternal health

Maternal and child health in Malaysia have improved dramatically since the country’s independence, due to policies that have strengthened primary healthcare services and improved service delivery to rural communities.

One of the challenges will be to reduce pockets of disparity between socioeconomic groups.

According to UNICEF’s global State of the World’s Children report 2008, the under-5 mortality rate fell from 22 per 1,000 live births in 1990, to 12 per 1,000 live births in 2006.

As for maternal mortality, the Ministry of Health reported that 30 out of 100,000 women (live births) died from pregnancy-related causes in 2005, compared to 141 per 100,000 live births in 1970.

Disparity, a new challenge

Despite these advances, new challenges will confront the next generation of professionals tasked with the responsibility of providing healthcare for mothers and children.

One of the challenges will be to reduce pockets of disparity between socioeconomic groups, particularly in terms of access to education and essential healthcare services.

“The way forward is to continue sustaining the gains we have made in child and maternal health, and to scale up the essential healthcare services and ensure that they are extended to the most impoverished, isolated, uneducated and marginalised districts,” Mr Youssouf identified.

Lively discussions

The students raised a number of thoughtful questions that demonstrated the depth of their knowledge and sensitivity towards current issues.

 “How do we prevent future cases of children falling ill from milk contamination, such as what is happening in China now?” one student enquired.

“Breast is best!” Mr Youssouf stressed. “Breastmilk is the best food for infants, particularly in the first six months of life, to ensure survival and to enhance healthy growth and development. If a mother wants her child to be healthy and safe, choose to breastfeed instead of giving formula milk.”

As the students browsed UNICEF’s exhibition booth later, they were clearly inspired by Mr Youssouf’s clarion call to “work for children”, who are the present and the future of the world.





State of the World's Children 2008

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