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UNICEF Community-based efforts key child survival

Community-based efforts key to child survival, UNICEF chief says

Strengthening efforts in primary care at the community level and getting life-saving commodities into the home are paramount to reducing child deaths, the head of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said today.

"Only by ensuring that children get proper care in the home as well as in health centres can we make and sustain progress against child mortality," Executive Director Carol Bellamy told a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York.

Ms. Bellamy said bed nets to protect against malaria, oral re-hydration solutions to treat diarrhoea, simple hygiene education and breastfeeding could save millions of lives a year. While the number of under-five deaths over the last 40 years has fallen from about 20 million to around 11 million, those figures had almost doubled in sub-Saharan Africa over the same period.

She added that some of the greatest triumphs in the public health area in recent decades, including the eradication of small pox, had a lot to do with the complementary manner in which UNICEF and agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) worked together.

Joining Ms. Bellamy was WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook, who highlighted the agency's commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS, especially the new initiative to provide antiretroviral medicines to three million people by the end of 2005.

Asked what he would be emphasizing during next week's high-level General Assembly meeting on HIV/AIDS, Dr. Lee said he would focus on antiretroviral treatment, and appeal to the international community for a massive scale up of people on such treatment.

Only 350,000 people outside of North America and Europe have access to treatment, he said, noting that the vast majority of that figure - 300,000 - was in Brazil.

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