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Child Health and Sanitation Week 2008 to Help Reduce Child Deaths from Water-Borne and Other Diseases

Islamabad, 19 April 2008 – The National Programme for Family Planning and Primary Health Care, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with UNICEF and other partners, will launch Child Health and Sanitation Week on Monday 21 April, providing free immunisation and deworming services for children and information to mothers and communities; focussing especially on exclusive breast feeding, use of Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) in diarrhoea, sanitation, hygiene and safe drinking water. From 21 April to 26 April, a series of activities to reduce child deaths and disease by promoting better health, sanitation and hygiene practices will be launched in six districts across the country in Balochistan, the North West Frontier Province, Punjab and Sindh. Public awareness activities at village and union council level will be supplemented by immunisation and deworming for children, as well as anti-tetanus vaccination for pregnant mothers, refresher trainings for health workers, and strengthened public health systems to ensure that ORS and other essential supplies are available and correctly used.

"Every day, about 1,100 Pakistani children under five die of diarrhoea and diseases related to water, sanitation and hygiene," said Martin Mogwanja, UNICEF Country Representative for Pakistan. "This is a great concern and opportunity for UNICEF and its partners in the Government and civil society to raise awareness about the impact of poor sanitation and hygiene practices on children, families and communities."

To help prevent many of these deaths, UNICEF and its partners will mark the International Year of Sanitation, by focussing on three key messages: safe drinking water, hand-washing, and use of sanitary toilets. A series of awareness activities will help reach a wide range of community members. These include awareness walks, school activities, puppets shows, widespread television coverage, and door-to-door visits by Lady Health Workers to reach women in their homes. Throughout this week, religious leaders have been mobilised to deliver sermons on the importance of safe drinking water and hygiene practices.

By integrating sanitation awareness activities with the biannual Child Health Weeks, the Government, UNICEF and other partners hope to use the existing health system and staff to increase awareness at the very start of the summer, when children face higher risk to contract diarrhoeal diseases. In 2007, Child Health Weeks were piloted in two districts and achieved an increase in initiation of immunisation from 82 per cent to 96 per cent as well as 86 per cent coverage for deworming as shown by pre- and post-intervention surveys. Pakistan's Child Health and Sanitation Week follows a model applied successfully in Ghana, where regular health weeks were instrumental in halving under-five mortality within five years. By integrating child and maternal healthcare with other vital interventions, such as water, environment and sanitation, UNICEF and its partners hope to reduce Pakistan's high burden of child mortality at low cost using pre-existing infrastructure.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. In Pakistan, it works with the government, NGOs and other partners to support 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. It has provided vital relief and reconstruction support to help individuals rebuild their lives after emergencies, such as the October 2005 earthquake. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information contact UNICEF's Communication Officers:
Sandra Bisin, UNICEF Islamabad, tel: 0300-8564197,
Sami Malik, UNICEF Islamabad, tel: 0300-8556654,



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