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Rwanda marks major milestone in its efforts to promote child survival

courtesy of Merck & Co. Inc.
© courtesy of Merck & Co. Inc.
Dr. Uzziel Ndagijimana, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health, administers the first rotavirus vaccine at Musanze District, Northern Province, Rwanda.

Musanze Rwanda, May 25, 2012: Rwanda today became the fourth country in Africa to introduce the rotavirus vaccine to prevent deaths related to diarrheal disease.

Diarrhoea is the second biggest killer of children in the world, claiming an estimated 1.3 million lives every year. In Rwanda, deaths from diarrheal disease account for one fifth of all childhood deaths.

With the introduction of this vaccine, which will happen through the country’s national immunization programme, Rwanda hopes to sustain the steady decline in child mortality, which has already fallen from 152 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005 to 76 in 2010.

Today’s launch ceremony, held in Musanze, two hours outside of Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, was inaugurated by the country’s Ministry of Health, in the presence of development partners and senior government officials.

Rwanda has led the way in introducing new vaccines for children since 2009, when it became the first developing country in Africa to introduce the pneumococcal vaccine to fight acute respiratory illness, which at that time was a leading killer of children in the country. Since the introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine, prevalence of pneumonia amongst under fives has declined from 17% in 2005 to 3% in 2010 (DHS).

The Government took the opportunity of the rotavirus launch ceremony to introduce Facts for Life in Kinyarwanda, a booklet providing key information to parents and care givers on how to treat common childhood illnesses. This booklet, first published in 1989 by the UN, has helped millions of families better understand and use key practices, such as hand washing with soap and the use of oral rehydration therapy to improve the well-being of their children.

Although diarrhoea is currently amongst the top causes of childhood death, after neonatal causes in Rwanda, the Government believes that it is only a matter of time before this cause, like malaria and pneumonia, become a tale of the past.



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