- Some 100 children under five years of age will die today in Zimbabwe, a bleak statistic that is part of new social development data released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the government, has revealed that the situation there for women and children has deteriorated in the past five years.
The Multiple Indicator and Monitoring Survey (MIMS), which was conducted in May 2009, reported a decline in access to many key social services for women and children, particularly for the poorest populations and in rural areas.
“The MIMS data underscores the deterioration that has occurred in the social sectors in the last few years and the tragic consequences that have resulted,” said Dr Peter Salama, UNICEF Representative. “Today and everyday in Zimbabwe 100 children below five years of age are dying of mostly preventable diseases.”
The data showed a 20 per cent increase in the mortality rate of children under five since 1990, the baseline year for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with children in rural areas and those in the poorest one fifth of the population being the most vulnerable. Major causes of these deaths are HIV and AIDS, newborn disorders, pneumonia and diarrhea.
The survey also showed that 1 in 2 pregnant women in rural areas were now delivering at home and that 39 percent nationally were not accessing the requisite medical facilities for delivery. Meanwhile, 40 percent where not attended to at birth by a skilled attendant posing huge dangers for both mothers and newborns.
UNICEF says that these findings confirm the result of previous research indicating that user fees and other financial barriers are limiting women’s access to life-saving obstetric services.
In addition, data from the national survey, which had a sample size of 12,500 households in Zimbabwe, revealed limited support to the country’s orphaned and vulnerable children, with 79 per cent not receiving any form of external assistance. Further, around two-thirds of all children in the country do not possess birth certificates.
The survey was designed to obtain strategic information relevant for policy makers as they make decisions on development priorities and budgets. In addition, the survey provides data on Zimbabwe’s progress in attaining international priorities like the MDGs, which includes among its targets reducing under-five mortality by two thirds by 2015.
“The MIMS data provides a powerful statistical testimony on the current state of women and children in Zimbabwe,” said Dr Salama. “It will assist the inclusive Government and its partners in determining the priorities for action. Women and children should be at the centre of the development agenda moving forward.”
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