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Tennis Star Joins UN-Backed Efforts In Ghana

Tennis Star Joins UN-Backed Efforts In Ghana To Combat Malaria, The Main Child Killer

New York, Nov 7 2006 6:00PM

On her first trip to Africa, world tennis star Serena Williams has urged all pregnant women and children in Ghana to protect themselves from malaria, the deadly disease that is the number one killer of children in the country, responsible for one quarter of all under-five deaths every year.

On the last day of the country’s biggest integrated child health campaign, led by the Ministry of Health and Ghana Health Service, with support from Japan, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other organizations, Ms. Williams distributed free insecticide-treated bed nets to children under two, administereῤ vitamin A supplements and helped out with other assistance in a deprived community in Greater Accra.

“I am really happy to be here in Ghana and to have the opportunity to speak out on the issue of malaria,” she said. “It is heartbreaking that so many children are dying from a disease that can be prevented. I believe strongly that education can and must play a big role in saving these lives. Children and their families need to knoῷ how to protect themselves.

Malaria is the number one killer of children in Ghana, claiming one-quarter of all under-five deaths every year. The consistent use of treated bed nets could reduce child mortality in Ghana by 20 per cent, but usage by children under five and pregnant women remains low. As part of the national health campaign, families across the country are being urged to sleep under bed nets through long-term community education efforts.

The vaccinations, vitamin A supplementation and free bed nets provided through the national child health campaign, which ran during the first week in November, could help to save 20,000 young lives over the next year. They are critical interventions in a country where some 80,000 children die every year, mostly from preventable causes.

On the other side of the world, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and international pop star Shakira Mebarak called on everyone in El Salvador, which has one of the highest rates of social violence, to come together and stamp out the problem as she joined more than 8,000 children and young people on Sunday in a “March for Peace.”

“We have to promote human solidarity, avoid indifference, and play a part with society in the solution of the problem of violence faced by El Salvador,” she said in the event to launch UNICEF’s “Make the Difference by Not Being Indifferent” campaign.

“Violence is one of the principal reasons why children don’t go to school. It’s also one of the causes of the alarming school dropout rates… there are an important number of children who abandon their studies because of the abuses they’re subject to by teachers and their own parents.”

Shakira’s involvement in the campaign comes as UNICEF and its partners are preparing for the regional launch of the Secretary-General’s Study on Violence Against Children and Adolescents, which was released in New York last month.

Presently El Salvador is undergoing a social crisis where ethical and moral values are increasingly ignored and forgotten, according to UNICEF. Violence indicators cited in the UN study rank El Salvador among the countries with the highest index of social violence in the world.

In a related development in Asia, Japan’s Kansai Telecasting Corporation today was named the winner of the ABU CASBAA UNICEF Child Rights Award 2006 for its documentary entitled “Conquering the Darkness - The Fight Against Memories of Abuse.”

The documentary follows Aya, a 33-year old mother, who suffered abuse as a child and subsequently abused her own children. It is the tale of a parent’s personal struggle to end the cycle of child abuse in the family.

“This year’s entries continue to illustrate the great influence television wields to command the attention of viewers regarding issues affecting children and comes at a timely moment with the just released UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence Against Children,” said Madeline Eisner, UNICEF Regional Communication Advisor for Eaῳt Asia anῤ the Pacific Office.

Ends

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