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Benin: UNICEF Regional Director for Central and West Africa in visit to Benin, appraises maternal and newborn health projects

Cotonou, 18 March 2009 – UNICEF Regional Director for Central and West Africa, Gianfranco Rotigliano, visited Benin from March 15-18. His mission took him to Pobè in the Southern department of Plateau were he assessed several UNICEF activities including projects on mother and child survival.  On the government’s side, UNICEF is partnering with the Ministry of Health to tackle the issue of maternal and under-five mortality.

The Coordinator of the Pobè/Adja-Ouèrè/Kétou Health district, Dr. Zinsou presented the integrated approach implemented in the Health district with regard to the reduction of maternal and newborn mortality. He focused among others on immunization, Vitamin A supplementation, deworming, antenatal consultations, the prevention of malaria, the Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses, nutrition, emergency obstetrical care, and the follow-up of newborn. HIV/AIDS is a priority.

Therefore, seeking for lost HIV infected pregnant women, contributes to the reduction of the prevalence rate among young children, and husbands are sensitized on the HIV test. Communication and an appropriate follow-up are key strategies to obtain results for women and children.

Actors such as traditional chiefs, rural radio animators, and community relays called “médiatrices”, have been identified and trained for social mobilisation, and awareness-raising. “We need more training that will enable us to better address behavioural change within the community and adequately fullfill our duties” Dr. Zinsou said while describing the daily difficulties to overcome. The Regional Director visited the various wards of the hospital of Pobè - a basic infrastructure - where UNICEF provided medical equipment.

The delegation called on Adékoya Awélédé II, King of Issaba, who expressed his gratitude to UNICEF for all its support, and strongly advocated on behalf of the women and children of his area.  The commitment of traditional leaders and their moral authority help reach out to the entire community.  Issaba is a living example of the success of the Accelerated Strategy for Child Survival and Development since its implementation in 2002.

The King asserted that much progress was done with regard to malaria, immunization, and HIV. He recalled that in the early sixties, reluctance to vaccination even lead to a war in the area. “We have come a long way,” he said.  Adékoya Awélédé II also pleaded for a review of the immunization schedule, and a new strategy: “It is almost impossible to reach children during the rainy season.  During the visit, several women involved in sensitization activities shared their experience, and talked of the good results they obtained with regard to exclusive breastfeeding or the use of mosquito nets. 

Significant progress has been achieved since 2004, when UNICEF started implementing the  programme in Pobè. In 2008, 90% of Pobè’s maternities were targeted by the Prevention of the Mother to Child Transmission programme. 73% of women took the voluntary HIV test. 16% of husbands accepted this test as well.  The prevalence of HIV has decreased from 2.06% in 2004 to 0.09% in 2008.

“I am impressed by the commitment of authorities, communities and leaders at all levels. It is now of utmost importance to go to scale,” Dr. Rotigliano indicated. He encouraged the authorities and population of Benin to build on good results in order to achieve MDGs 4, 5, and 6.

Gianfranco Rotigliano also visited Education and Protection projects both in Pobè and Cotonou, and he met with the Ministers in charge of Planning, Family and Solidarity, Preschool and Primary Education, and Health. He was accompanied by UNICEF Representative in Benin Dr. Souleymane Diallo. During encounters with Chiefs of UN agencies, and other development partners, he advocated for a reinforcement of partnership, an efficient coordination and the realization of a Sectoral Wide Approach for maternal and child survival. 

For more information, please contact :
Hortense Kossou, Health Specialist, UNICEF Benin, tel (229) 97 97 51 05, email:
Gisèle Langue-Menye, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Benin, tel (229) 97 97 51 08, e-mail:



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