- United Nations children agency, UNICEF, has launched its first State of Africa's Children 2008 report at the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Japan, calling for large-scale, focused investments in improved health systems for sub-Saharan Africa in order to capitalize on recent achievements and help children with inadequate access to health care.
"Every year, nearly 10 million children die before their fifth birthday and one half of these deaths occur in Africa,” said Ann M. Veneman, UNICEF Executive Director. “Where community-based integrated health systems are in place, lives can be saved."
According to the report, the five African countries that are predominately north of the Sahara desert - Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia - reduced their child mortality rates by at least 45% between 1990 and 2006, putting them on track to meet Millennium Development Goal child survival target of reducing under-five mortality by two thirds by 2015.
In sub-Saharan Africa, under-five mortality decreased by 14 per cent between 1990 and 2006, but with one in every six children dying before their fifth birthday, sub-Saharan Africa remains the most difficult place in the world for a child to survive.
The UNICEF report provides data and analysis of the situation of the continents's children, outlines recent successes, and proposes concrete actions and programmes that can save children’s lives.
It noted the 40% reduction of under-five mortality rates in four of the world's least developed nations - Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi and Mozambique - since 1990.
While measles deaths in sub-Saharan African have dropped by a remarkable 91% between 2000 and 2006, 16 African countries have tripled coverage of insecticide-treated mosquito nets to protect against malaria since 2000.
Exclusive breastfeeding rates have also increased from 22% in 1996 to 30% in 2006 throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Between 2004 and 2006, coverage of antiretroviral treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV tripled in eastern and southern Africa, the report said.
However, the report emphasizes the need for a continuum of care across time and place: from pregnancy, childbirth, postnatal and newborn periods into childhood and adolescence, and extending from the household and community, to the local clinic, the district hospital and beyond.
“The essential services and practices required to avert child deaths in Africa are well established,” said Veneman. “The report describes immunization, insecticide-treated bed nets and vitamin A supplementation, all of which have helped to reduce child deaths in recent years.”
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