By Janjay F. Campbell
UNICEF Resident Representative in Liberia says an estimated 12,000 children die every year from preventable causes. In other words, about 32 children every day are dying in the first month of their life.
Mr. Sheldon Yett who spoke at the official launch of “A Promise Renewed” committing to child survival in Liberia, that was held at the Tubmanburg City Hall over the weekend said a stubbornly high neonatal mortality rates are significantly slowing Liberia’s progress in reducing even further the country’s under five mortality rate and that children are still dying mostly from causes we have the power to prevent, and diseases we have the ability to treat.
According to Mr. Yett, “The Promise Renewed” initiative gives us the opportunity to work together strategically, the government, UN, civil society, traditional and religious leaders, and families, in accelerating actions to provide life-saving services to mothers and children in every community in Liberia.
He said globally, reductions in under-five mortality rates, combined with declining fertility rates in many regions and countries, have lowered the number of child deaths from nearly 12 millions in 1990 to 6.9 millions in 2011. That translates to 14,000 fewer children dying globally each day in 2011 compared to the rate in 1990.
“In Liberia, the progress is even more striking as Liberians have enjoyed a 68 percent decline from 241 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 78 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011. This is one of the greatest percentage declines in child mortality in the world, and the greatest percentage decline in Africa,” Mr. Yett noted.
He said this is indeed a remarkable achievement, and the product of the dedicated efforts from local community health workers to the highest reaches of government.
Mr. Yett stressed that Liberia’s 10-year National Health and Social Welfare Policy Plan, the roll out of the Essential Package of Health Services, and the renewed focus of the Agenda for Transformation on survival and development shows that Liberia is already well prepared to take on the challenge of “A Promise Renewed” – reducing child mortality with a goal of achieving less than 20 deaths per 1,000 live births by 2035.
“We must continue our focus on the diseases that kill children the most and hit the poorest children hardest in Liberia and globally: diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria and pre-term birth complications, we must strengthen and sustain high immunization coverage,” he noted.
He said timely immunizations save the lives of thousands of children every year and with new vaccines, there is potential to save many more. And of course, we also need the final push to eliminate polio in Liberia and the region.
Mr. Yett said more progress needs to be made in improving neonatal and maternal health by expanding services all along the continuum of care to reach more newborns and more mothers. The health sector needs to address all the determinants of child survival, not only coverage of health interventions. He noted that these other key interventions include better nutrition, safe water and improved sanitation, stronger mechanisms to protect children from violence, exploitation and abuse and ensuring girls stay in school and get a quality education’
Launching “A Promise Renewed” President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has recommitted her government to supporting relevant stakeholders in the health sector to ensure that Millennium Development Goals (MDG) 4 and 5 which have to do with drastic reduction in child mortality by the year 2015 is achieved.
President Sirleaf pledged that her government would redouble efforts to bring to a minimal level, the huge number of under five year deaths. She indicated that every stakeholder in the health sector needs to work harder together in ensuring that children’s lives are not taken away by diseases that could easily be prevented.
She said although Liberia has made tremendous progress in record time to meet the target, but there are still challenges that need to be dealt with in order to reach the goal in the given time frame and to actualize the objective of “A Promise Renewed” initiative.