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Groups Mark Day Of The African Child, Highlight Improvement In Children’s Survival, Work To Be Done

To mark Day of the African Child on Tuesday, the U.N. Millennium Campaign is calling on African governments, civil society organizations and the private sector to address child and maternal mortality and other targets related to the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), InDepthNews reports (Mwanda, InDepthNews, 6/16), while Save the Children released a new briefing paper, indicating that more than 1,500 babies born in sub-Saharan Africa die daily, “mostly from preventable or treatable causes,” (Save the Children release, 6/16). 

The theme of this year’s Day of the African Child is “Africa fit for children: a call for accelerated action towards child survival,” and although several African countries have made “impressive gains in child survival in recent years,” a lot more needs to be done, according to UNICEF.

“Where community-based integrated health systems are in place, many young lives can and have been saved,” Ann Veneman, UNICEF’s executive director, said. “There are signs of progress across the continent and these successes must be built upon” (UNICEF release, 6/16). According to a U.N. Millennium Campaign release, “As many as 50,000 African children under the age of five will lose their lives,” because of “preventable or curable diseases” (U.N. Millennium Campaign release, 6/16).

Sylvia Mwichuli, U.N. Millennium Campaign communications coordinator and acting deputy director for Africa, said, “Child survival, protection and development are not only universal aspirations enshrined in the MDGs, they are also human rights issues ratified in the International Convention on the Rights of Children and the African charter on the rights and welfare of the child.” Mwichuli said that the surest way for a country to “secure its future” is to invest in the health and education of “African children and their mothers,” which requires “strong political commitment.”

Although “official reports” indicate that children are “better off than they were 10 years ago and can look forward to living beyond the age of five,” women continue to “die while giving birth,” according to the campaign release (InDepthNews, 6/16). 

Wales Online reports that most African children who die within their first 28 days, “suffer from treatable illnesses such as malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia.” The newspaper writes that up to 800,000 newborn babies could be saved for an additional $1.3 billion, per year (Wales Online, 6/15).

The “most dangerous day” in a child’s life in the developing world is the day he or she is born, Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, secretary general of Save the Children said in a release. “We can and must save those children’s lives, for example with life-saving vaccinations for newborns against infections like tetanus. Many of these lives could be saved for less than the price of a lottery ticket,” Petri Gornitzka said, adding that world leaders are falling behind on their commitments to cut by two-thirds the number of children who die before the age of five by 2015 (Save the Children release, 6/16).

According to Joy Online, “Even [in] Africa’s biggest and most developed countries scores of children die before their fifth birthdays: in Nigeria 191 of every 1,000 children die by the age of five, in Botswana it is 124 and in Kenya it is 121” (Joy Online, 6/16).

The Citizen examines malnutrition among children in Tanzania. To mark Day of the African Child, nutritionists and advocates for children “want a new era to start.” A 2005 health survey showed that in Tanzania, 1.4 million children are underweight, 2.4 million have stunted growth and 4.2 million children are anemic (Kiishweko, Citizen, 6/16).