African leaders urged to end annual 4.5 mln child deaths

20:14, July 23, 2010      

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Britain-based charity group Save the Children on Friday urged African leaders to take clear actions to end the majority of the continent's annual 4.5 million child deaths and 265,000 maternal deaths.

African heads of state are due to meet in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, from Sunday to next Tuesday for the 15th African Union Summit themed "Maternal, Infant, and Child Health and Development in Africa." "This is a critical moment for African leaders to show they will put in place the dedicated resources and health policies that will save the lives of millions of their own people," said Chikezie Anyanwu, Save the Children's Africa Advocacy Advisor.

A recent study published in the Public Library of Science medical journal estimated that in Africa 85 percent of maternal, newborn, and under-age-five deaths could be prevented if all mothers and their children received a full package of essential health care that includes the ability to plan and space pregnancies, skilled birth attendance, the access to emergency obstetric care, early and effective postnatal care, immunizations and treatment for pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria.

According to the charity, that means that each year the lives of about 4 million African women, newborns, and children could be saved if already well-known interventions reached 90 percent of families on the continent.

In the days and months leading up to the summit, Save the Children has joined a broad coalition of civil society groups from across Africa and around the world to call on African leaders to deliver four key commitments that will save the lives of mothers and children.

Health experts and child and maternal advocates across Africa agreed each leader at the AU Summit should commit to putting a plan in place for to enable every African country to develop and implement an accelerated national plan for reducing maternal, newborn and child deaths.

The charity also urged the leaders to make sure the resources are there and that every African country should meet and exceed its 2001 promise in Abuja , Nigeria to spend at least 15 percent of the national budget on health care. "Additionally, a meaningful portion of this budget must specifically dedicated to maternal, newborn, and child health," it said, adding that countries must recruit, train and retain more doctors, nurses, and midwives to help reduce the overall gap of 800,000 health workers in Africa by 2015.

Save the Children also called on the leaders to address the coverage gap between rich and poor by ensuring that health care, including emergency obstetric care, is accessible for the poorest people and is free at the point of use for pregnant women and children under five.

Source: Xinhua


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