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Press release

Achievements Offer New Prospects for Success in Global Efforts to Help Africa’s Children

New UNICEF report sheds light on successes and impediments to child survival in Africa

TOKYO, 28 May 2008 – UNICEF today called for large-scale, focused investments in improved health systems for sub-Saharan Africa, to capitalize on recent achievements and help children who have inadequate access to health care.

The call came as the children’s agency launched its first The State of Africa’s Children 2008 report at the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) in Japan.

“Every year, nearly 10 million children die before their fifth birthday and one half of these deaths occur in Africa,” said Ann M. Veneman, UNICEF Executive Director. “Where community-based integrated health systems are in place, lives can be saved.”

According to the report, the five African countries that are predominately north of the Sahara desert -- Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia -- reduced their child mortality rates by at least 45 per cent between 1990 and 2006, putting them on track to meet Millennium Development Goal child survival target of reducing under-five mortality by two thirds by 2015.

In sub-Saharan Africa, under-five mortality decreased by 14 per cent between 1990 and 2006, but with one in every six children dying before their fifth birthday, sub-Saharan Africa remains the most difficult place in the world for a child to survive.

The State of Africa’s Children 2008 provides data and analysis of the situation of the continent’s children, outlines recent successes, and proposes concrete actions and programmes that can save children’s lives.

It outlines recent achievements in child survival and primary health-care in sub-Saharan Africa:

• In four of the world’s least developed nations, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi and Mozambique, under-five mortality rates have been reduced by 40 per cent or more since 1990;
• Measles deaths in sub-Saharan Africa have fallen by a remarkable 91 per cent between 2000 and 2006;
• Sixteen African countries have tripled coverage of insecticide-treated mosquito nets to protect against malaria since 2000;
• Rates of exclusive breastfeeding have increased from 22 per cent in 1996 to 30 per cent in 2006 throughout sub-Saharan Africa;
• Use of micronutrient supplements has risen;
• Access to treatment for HIV-positive mothers and children is rising from a low base;
• Between 2004 and 2006, coverage of antiretroviral treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV tripled in eastern and southern Africa; and
• A growing consensus is emerging among governments and other important actors on the right strategies to further improve child and maternal survival.

The report also emphasizes the need for a continuum of care across time and place: from pregnancy, childbirth, postnatal and newborn periods into childhood and adolescence, and extending from the household and community, to the local clinic, the district hospital and beyond.

“The essential services and practices required to avert child deaths in Africa are well established,” said Veneman. “The report describes immunization, insecticide-treated bed nets and vitamin A supplementation, all of which have helped to reduce child deaths in recent years.”

The State of Africa’s Children 2008 urges all stakeholders – including governments, international agencies, non-governmental organizations, civil society and the private sector – to unite behind the goals of maternal, newborn and child survival.

Note to the editor:
The State of Africa’s Children 2008 complements UNICEF’s flagship publication The State of the World’s Children, offering an African perspective on trends in child survival and health. The report will be launched on Wednesday 28 May at the Intercontinental Yokohoma, at 3:30 p.m., Japan time.

Attention broadcasters:
Video news stories are available free of charge at: www.thenewsmarket.com/unicef.

UNICEF works in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, safe water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:
Najwa Mekki, UNICEF New York, +1-212-326-7162, nmekki@unicef.org




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