Addis hosting African Leadership for Child Survival conference

Africa has shown an impressive decline in child mortality rates, but still loses a million children a year

Emnet Assefa

African Leadership for Child Survival, an initiative to reduce child mortality rate in the continent, has opened its continental conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this morning at the African Union Commission (AUC). The conference that will last for the next three days is being attended by health ministers of African countries, international organizations as well as non- governmental organizations.

Currently Ethiopia is the fourth out of ten African countries which have managed to reduce child mortality in the last decade. According to UNICEF’s Health Chief Mickey Chopra Ethiopia has managed to reduce the annual rate of child mortality by 5.3% following Senegal, Malawi and Zambia.

According to Ethiopia’s Ministry of health, in 1990, Ethiopia’s child mortality rate stood at 217 per 1000 live birth, a number that has fallen to 80 in the year 2011, achieving an impressive 60 % reduction.  Now Ethiopia has committed itself to the African Leadership for Child Survival initiative which aims to bring the number to 20 by the year 2035.

 Health extension workers en mass

Ethiopia’s achievement has been largely credited to the more than 34, 000 health extension workers deployed throughout the country over the past ten years. Former Health Minister Dr. Tedros Adhanom who is now the Minister for Foreign Affairs is praised for brining dynamic changes in the health sector. However, Dr. Tedros said during the conference: “we still face pockets of child mortality higher than the national average and MDG targets.”

Dr. Kesetebirhan Admassu, Ethiopia’s recently appointed Health Minister stated his government’s plans to improve the health sector stretching the total outreach to a family physician for every village through placements in the health posts and health care centres over the next 50 years.

 Impressive record, but still challenging

The number of child deaths in sub-Saharan Africa has dropped by 39% since 1990. Many African countries are within reach of the 2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to reduce the under-five mortality rate by two thirds. The initiative is hoped to commit African countries to improve availability of proven, inexpensive and high-impact interventions for maternal, new born, and child health.

So far 165 countries, including 47 from Africa, have signed the call for the action which largely aims to scale up efforts to end preventable child deaths worldwide. However, the adoption of the commitments is still slow as high rates of childhood illness and death persist in a number of countries.

Africa is still losing one million new born babies every year even though some African countries such as Libya, Tunisia and Mauritius have reduced their under-five mortality rates below 20.

Addis Ababa is hosting the conference as decided last June in Washington D.C. at a summit of ‘A call action for child survival, a promise kept’ with the governments of United States, India and UNICEF aiming to propose leaders of all African nations of the renewal of their commitment to child survival and to elimination of all preventable deaths within two decades.

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