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Congo: launch of a telephone hotline for pediatric emergencies

Brazzaville, Congo, June 9, 2009 – Three simple digits "115" helped save the life of 7 month old Pascal last week. His mother Claudine called 115 as soon as she noticed her child’s fever did not decrease.

She received the assistance of one of the 5 health professional operators and was instructed to take little Pascal to the nearest clinic in order to save his life. Pascal developped a bout of malaria.

The hotline will help save the lives of thousands of other sick children in Congo. 115 or ‘le telephone qui sauve’ is the toll-free number of Congo’s, and Africa’s,  first pediatric telephone hotline, launched today by the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, UNICEF, and Warid Congo.

In Congo, more than 12 per cent of children die before reaching age five, 80 per cent because of health problems that can be prevented or treated like malaria, diarrhea, respiratory infections, malnutrition and neonatal infections.

While access to health services and essential commodities and drugs is critical, caregivers have to know also how to detect and treat themselves health problems affecting their children at an early stage. For example, treating malaria within six hours or utilizing SRO for treating diarrhea saves lives.

The Minister of Health and Social Affairs, Ms Emilienne Raoul, was the first person to answer the telephone hotline and provided advice to a mother of a sick child.  "We are delighted that this service is being made available through the joint efforts of the Minister of Health and Social Affairs, UNICEF and Warid Congo for the well being of Congolese children,” said Ms Raoul.

The hotline will be staffed on a regular basis by 5 professional health operators, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Callers will receive free counseling on how to address the diseases affecting their children and will get advice to which local health clinic and/or a hospital to refer them to receive additional care and information.

The hotline will be accessible by dialing 115 toll free or 4000 115 for non Warid users. Thanks to UNICEF’s advocacy efforts, WARID Congo has donated the toll free telephone services to the Ministry of Health to make this project a reality.

Setting up the telephone hotline has been one of the goals set by the Ministry of Health and UNICEF to address child survival issuesaffecting Congolese children.

This complements the national communication for development initiative, ‘Les gestes qui sauvent’, implemented in partnership with all the churches of Congo. So far, this initiative has trained over 1600 religious leaders and more than 6000 group animators, and will provide educational messages through the churches to over 200,000 women across the country.

 "Les gestes qui sauvent" and the telephone hotline are critical for providing life saving knowledge to caregivers. With the power of this knowledge more than 5,000 children’s lives will be saved every year in Congo," said UNICEF Representative in Congo, Dr. Koen Vanormerlingen.

This initiative was funded by UNICEF, the Ministry of Health and the private sector. The role of the private sector is essential in building this strategic partnerships.

WARID Congo, committed to finance the operation of the 24/7 hotline and the training of its 5 operators. The printing of all educational and training materials was financed by both Warid Congo (200,000 mother booklets) and Burotop, a local retailer (15,000 training materials). The overall initiative is expected to save between 16,000 and 20,000 children’s lives by 2013.

For more information, please contact:
Hector Calderon
+242 578 24 27



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