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New Approach to Child Survival Yields Gains

New Approach to Child Survival Yields Significant Gains in West Africa – UNICEF

New York, May 16 2005 5:00PM

An innovative child care initiative to bring the right care into people’s homes by “bundling” health services in a way that best suits family needs is showing significant progress in several West African countries and could save millions of lives in years to come, the head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today.

“They have exceeded expectations, and shown us just what can be achieved over a short period of time through sound science using an integrated approach,” Ann M. Venemen said, announcing the early results of the Accelerated Child Survival and Development programme, which was initiated in 2002 some 100 districts within 11 countries in West Africa.

Speaking in Geneva at the plenary session of the World Health Assembly, which began this morning, she said that after three years of increasing coverage in basic health interventions, UNICEF estimates that child deaths will have dropped by an average of 20 per cent across the 16 districts where the programme was fully implemented, and by 10 per cent where it was partially applied.

The programme takes the most effective health interventions for children, newborns and pregnant women and bundles them in an integrated, cost-effective package, including immunizing children and pregnant women, delivering life-saving
micronutrients, encouraging breastfeeding and supplying oral re-hydration salts to treat diarrhoea as well as bed nets for protecting children and women from malaria.

The initiative was applied most intensely in 16 districts in Senegal, Mali, Ghana and Benin, where the under-five mortality rate dropped an estimated 25, 21, 17 and 16 per cent respectively. The programme focused on districts that were the hardest to reach, often with the highest mortality rates, and proved that significant progress is possible against the odds.

Every year nearly 11 million children under age five die from preventable causes, with nearly 5 million of those deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. After studying what has worked in the pilot programme, UNICEF has set the goal of expanding the survival scheme to cover many more African children.

“We believe that we can reach 60 per cent of children across sub-Saharan Africa by 2009 with these integrated community-based interventions,” Ms. Veneman said. “This will mean saving the lives of an additional 1 million children every year in that region alone.”

ENDS

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