President Joyce Banda has all the reasons to smile with a new UNICEF report released Friday showing that Malawi is one of the few low income countries that has made significant strides in reducing under-five death rates by two-thirds or more since 1990.
The report says Malawi has reached Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 for the reduction of child deaths ahead of the 2015 deadline.
Apart from Malawi, other countries are Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Liberia, Nepal and United Republic of Tanzania.
President Banda – who rose to prominence as a relentless women’s rights advocate – soon after ascending to the top seat in April 2012 established the Presidential Initiative on Safe Motherhood to end maternal deaths as one way of improving women’s welfare in the country which corresponds with MDG which Malawi needed to accomplish by 2015.
The report is capturing the progress made from 1992 under MCP government through to Bakili Muluzi’s UDF government from 1994 to 1995 and the Bingu wa Mutharika regime.
However, a number of children dying before the age of five has fallen significantly over the 2012 to 2013 the time President Banda has been in office, according to the report.
“For Malawi, the under- five mortality rate now is at 71 per 1,000 live births (2012), down from 112 in 2010 and 234 in 1992 according to the joint UN child mortality estimates report (IGME 2013),” said the report seen by Nyasa Times.
“ Malawi recorded the second highest rate of reduction of all low-income, high mortality countries, at 5.6%, with only Bangladesh gaining a higher rate of reduction at 5.7%.
“Malawi’s rate for under five deaths is now lower than neighbours, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Kenya,” said the report.
UNICEF noted that Pneumonia, diarrhoea, and malaria remain the leading causes of child deaths globally, claiming the lives of around 6,000 children under five each day. Under-nutrition contributes to almost half of these deaths.
President Banda has been saying that maternal deaths are preventable and access to health care is at her heart of her leadership.
Banda remains a role model to many women in Malawi for her gender fight in a male-dominated society and her initivative of safemotherhood involving traditional leaders has so far proved to be a success projct.
According to the new UNICEF report, dramatic reductions in child survival are possible if the correct investments are possible.
“Progress can and must be made,” said UNICEF Malawi’s Representative Mahimbo Mdoe. “When concerted action, sound strategies, adequate resources and strong political will are harnessed in support of child and maternal survival, dramatic reductions in child mortality aren’t just feasible, they are morally imperative.”
Mdoe said reversing these trends requires immediate action on multiple fronts, as outlined in the Millennium Development Goals – reducing poverty, decreasing maternal mortality, boosting education and gender equality, and promoting environmental sustainability.
Public health experts attribute the continuing decline to increased use of key health interventions, such as immunizations, the use of insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria and Vitamin A supplementation.
“Where these interventions have increased, positive results have followed. Also contributing to Malawi’s success has been the use of innovative ideas and technologies to reach children in remote areas with activities that can save their lives,” noted the report.
“ One such innovation is the use of mobile phones for fast delivery of HIV test results. Diagnostic results are sent back to mothers 50 per cent faster than results delivered in printed copy, allowing for faster treatment for children. Health workers also record children’s births and track patients using the Rapid SMS system, making sure that children are counted and receive the medical assistance they need.”
The report also noted that Malawi have signed a pledge to the “Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed”, a global effort to stop children from dying of causes that are easily prevented.
The 2013 Progress Report on Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed examines trends in child mortality since 1990, analyses the main causes of under-five deaths, and highlights national and global efforts to save children’s lives.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :