Drive to reduce child deaths launched

Thursday August 30 2012

From left: Word Vision deputy director Pauline Okumu, Ministry of Health, department of family health head Tatu Kamau and Save the Children country director Duncan Harvey flag off a road show campaign aimed at reducing child mortality August 29, 2012 at Silver Springs Hotel.

From left: Word Vision deputy director Pauline Okumu, Ministry of Health, department of family health head Tatu Kamau and Save the Children country director Duncan Harvey flag off a road show campaign aimed at reducing child mortality August 29, 2012 at Silver Springs Hotel. 

By LILLIAN ONYANGO [email protected]

A campaign aimed at reducing the number of Kenyan children who die before their fifth birthday was launched in Nairobi on Wednesday.

The drive will also raise awareness on the number of children below the age of five dying from preventable causes and complications during birth and harmful practices after birth that cause infections.

The national campaign dubbed “5 and alive” has been organised by Save the Children and World Vision with support from the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation.

Acting head at the Ministry’s Department of Family Health Dr Tatu Kamau said they are targeting to improve maternal health and heighten the chances of child survival beyond the age of five.

“Malaria, malnutrition, HIV and Aids and inappropriate household practices are some of the main causes of such deaths and it is factors such as poverty, cultural practices and inadequacies in health services that it possible,” she said during the launch at the Silver Springs Hotel.

Other causes of Kenya’s high child mortality are caused by water, sanitation and hygiene related factors.

A caravan, which was flagged off at the ceremony, will snake through major towns countrywide carrying the message of the campaign – use of clean water, hand washing and visiting health centres for treatment and child delivery.

Optimum care

Dr Kamau said it will create awareness on the correct practices that will promote optimum infant and maternal care as “the problems start in the community level.”

"Measures such as vaccines, oral hydration therapy to treat diarrhoea, drugs to treat infections, insecticide-treated bed nets to prevents malaria, exclusive breast feeding for six months, among others can dramatically reduce deaths among children under the age of five.”

Save the Children Country Director Duncan Harvey described the first five years of a child’s life as the most crucial to the physical and intellectual development of children.

Statistics from the government indicate that currently, 74 children out of every 1,000 born in Kenya die before their fifth birthday.

And the new born deaths contribute to 33 per cent of infant deaths and more than 50 per cent of these occur at home.

In May, a World Health Organisation (WHO) report revealed that more than 150,000 children under the age of five died of preventable diseases last year.

The report cited that pneumonia, malaria and diarrhoea, resulting to malnutrition, as the main causes of the deaths.

According to the report, Nyanza topped the list of provinces with the highest number of preventable child deaths, followed by Western while Central recorded the lowest numbers.

Also, Dr Kamau said the government is planning to rehire retired midwives to serve as skilled birth attendants to assist in cases of home deliveries.

“However, we are not encouraging home births as we would prefer them to come to our centres. But this is the government trying to meet them halfway,” she said.

The Nairobi circuit of the campaign will kick off on Monday before heading to Nakuru and Western parts of the country.