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President Chissano launches UNICEF report “The State of Africa’s Children 2008”

NAIROBI, 25 November 2008 - UNICEF’s inaugural report The State of Africa’s Children 2008 was launched today by Former President of Mozambique Joachim Alberto Chissano in Nairobi, Kenya.

During a press conference hosted by Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the renowned African leader called the report “an excellent blueprint on how to accelerate the attainment of health-related MDGS.”

The inaugural edition of The State of Africa’s Children complements The State of the World's Children, UNICEF’s annual flagship report on the world's youngest citizens. The report outlines some of the recent achievements in child survival and primary health care in Africa.

Despite hard-won gains, Africa, and particularly sub-Saharan Africa, remains the most difficult place in the world for a child to survive, says the report. With only 22 per cent of the world’s births, sub-Saharan Africa now accounts for half of all under-five deaths.

The report shows that in 2006, five million African children died before reaching their fifth birthday, an average of 14,000 a day. Of the 10 countries that have the highest under-five mortality rates in the world, sub-Saharan African countries accounted for nine. Between 1970 and 2006, sub-Saharan Africa reduced its under-five mortality rate by just one third.

The report 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.

“In the whole report the need of uniting efforts and solidarity is a common feature,” remarked President Chissano. “It is now time to renew our commitment and efforts towards child survival and health. Together we can succeed in our quest to achieve social justice and sound health for the African children.”

Earlier today, President Chissano paid a visit to an impoverished community on the outskirt of Nairobi. He met with a mother who just delivered her twin daughters at a local clinic three weeks ago. Through community health workers, Saumu Yusuf, 27, heard about the health services offered at the clinic, and started going for regular check-ups during her pregnancy. She delivered her babies with the help of trained medical workers, and paid only 20 Kenya Shillings (US 25 cents) for the service.

Not too far from Saumu’s home, Alice Koki, 29, told President Chissano about the loss of her three-week-old baby. She delivered her child at home without any health worker’s assistance, except her friend, who cut the umbilical cord. She didn’t take her sick baby to the local clinic because she didn’t know that there were affordable services there. One night she put the baby to sleep, and he never woke up.

“We know the most effective way to save children’s lives is by investing at the community level,” said Olivia Yambi, UNICEF Representative in Kenya, who accompanied President Chissano on the field trip. “UNICEF strongly supports the decision by the Government of Kenya to focus on community level action and the empowerment of families to protect their children and ensure that they grow to their full potential.”

If sub-Saharan Africa is to meet the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds by 2015, an annual mortality reduction rate of more than 10 per cent is needed over the next eight years.

“It is clear that we need strong political will from each African government,” said UNICEF Regional Director of Eastern and Southern Africa, Per Engebak. “There is no cause more important than ensuring our children survive and thrive with the best start in life.”

UNICEF is on the ground 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, good 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 more information, please contact:
Pamella Sittoni, UNICEF Kenya, Tel: +254 728600830 psittoni@unicef.org
Sara Cameron, UNICEF Kenya, Tel: +254 722585262 scameron@unicef.org
Kun Li, UNICEF Regional Office for Eastern and Southern Africa, Tel: +254 734813983 kli@unicef.org




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