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Liberia celebrates progress toward ending preventable child deaths, and commits to accelerate child mortality reduction

BOMI COUNTY, Liberia, 25 July 2013 – The President of Liberia, H.E. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, launched today “A Promise Renewed – Committing to Child Survival in Liberia” at a gathering of community leaders, health workers, government officials and development partners at Tubmanburg City, Bomi County. The launch is one of the key events commemorating the 166th Independence Day anniversary of Liberia.

A Promise Renewed is a global movement initiated by the Governments of Ethiopia, India and the United States, in partnership with UNICEF, to end preventable child deaths.  The Government of Liberia signed the pledge in June 2012 along with more than 100 country governments, civil society and faith based organizations. The commitment redoubles efforts to achieve Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 by 2015—specifically, to reduce under-five mortality in all countries to 20 or fewer under-five deaths per 1,000 live births by 2035, and to focus greater effort on reaching the most disadvantaged and hardest-to-reach mothers and children in the country.

Liberia has made remarkable progress during the first decade of peace since the end of the 14-year civil war. According to the 2012 progress report of A Promise Renewed, the infant and under-five mortality rates were 58 and 78 per 1,000 live births respectively in 2010 in Liberia. This decline of over 68 per cent from the 1990 levels of 241/1,000 (U-5MR), represents a remarkable annual reduction of about 5.4 per cent, the highest in Africa.

“The result is a magnificent effort of partnership. I launch A Promise Renewed, a commitment by Liberia to accelerate child survival as well as efforts towards achieving MDGs 4 and 5,” said President Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. 

In spite of the progress made, neonatal (less than 4 weeks old) mortality is still high at 27/1,000 live births, thus significantly slowing Liberia’s progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goal 4 by 2015. The leading causes of childhood mortality and morbidity are malaria, acute respiratory infections (including pneumonia), diarrheal diseases and neonatal causes (APR Progress Report, 2012).

The Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Walter Gwenigale said, “The success so far is due to the support and hard work of community health volunteers and health workers. We will continue to accelerate efforts for child and maternal health with support of partners.”

A Promise Renewed initiative will give an added impetus and focus on improving neonatal health in Liberia, in addition to the on-going child survival interventions led by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare with support from the United Nations, the U.S. Agency on International Development, other bilateral and multi-lateral organizations and civil society partners.

The U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, Deborah Malac, added, “The Government of Liberia and its people should be very proud of their significant progress and leadership toward ending preventable child deaths. The United States Government has worked closely with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to assess the health needs of Liberian mothers and children, and have aligned our programs to meet Liberia’s goals. By working together, we can save children’s lives and build a stronger Liberia.”

Congratulating the government and the people of Liberia for the progress, the UNICEF Representative for Liberia, Sheldon Yett said, “The progress for children in Liberia has been remarkable, and this is because of the exemplary leadership and political will, as well as the commitment of all service providers, civil society and development partners. This momentum must continue, with a renewed focus on the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children and families in Liberia, because every child in Liberia deserves to live and develop to their full potential.”
In the context of the country’s vision of achieving middle income status by 2030, and the medium term goals of the Agenda for Transformation (2012-2017) and post-MDG goals, the commitment to A Promise Renewed is extremely important for Liberia. It will help sharpen evidence-based country plans and set measurable benchmarks; strengthening accountability for maternal, newborn and child survival; and mobilize broad-based social support so that every child lives to celebrate their 5th birthday.



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