Wednesday, 09 February 2011 10:30

SIERRA LEONE: EU's 6.6 Million Boost to Curb Child Mortality

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The European Commission's Humanitarian Office (ECHO) has doled out 6.6 million (about $8.1 million) to support UNICEF and the government of Sierra Leone in achieving the millennium development goals (MDGs) on reducing child mortality and improving maternal health in the country.

"This additional EU allocation will support the free health care initiative of the government of Sierra Leone," said Jean-Pierre Reymondet-Commoy, EU Head of Delegation.

The CMAM approach involves timely detection of severe cases and provision of treatment to those without medical complications (80 percent) with ready-to-use-therapeutic food within their own communities.

The CMAM component of the project will target 60,000 severely malnourished children in all the 12 districts and the Western Area of Sierra Leone. Community level screening and treatment of severely malnourished children is already taking place at 198 Peripheral Health Units (PHUs). Management of severely malnourished children with medical complications is being done at 14 hospitals with stabilization centres.

In April last year, President Earnest Bai Koroma launched the free health care initiative for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children who are under the age of five. The free health care component will ensure that about 230,000 pregnant women, lactating mothers, and 950,000 children in the country have access to free health care services.

This means, fees and medical bills for these categories of persons are waived in all public health facilities throughout the country. Development partners collaborate with the government to provide supply and distribution of drugs to public health facilities, trainings of health staff and other technical support.

Sierra Leone has some of the poorest indicators in the world for child survival. One in eleven children born in the country dies before its first birthday and one in seven dies before reaching its fifth birthday. Globally, about 35 percent of deaths are attributed to malnutrition and Sierra Leone has one of the highest malnutrition rate.

According to the Demographic and Health Survey 2008, 10 percent of children in the country are underweight and out of this number, 4.2 percent are severely malnourished which increases the likelihood of child mortality. The most severely malnourished children are often those who have barely access to health services and lack skilled care at household level.

"These funds will contribute significantly to reducing child mortality by focusing on the needs of the most vulnerable in the country," said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF Representative in Sierra Leone. "This is an important step in increasing our efforts to reaching the Millennium Development Goals."

The government of Sierra Leone, through the ministry of Health and Sanitation, local councils and non-governmental organizations, will implement the project directly. "This money will further strengthen the free health care initiative and contribute to our government's pro-poor policies in the Agenda for Change," said Mrs. Zainab Bangura, minister of Health and Sanitation.

Source: Concord Times (Freetown, Sierra Leone)

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