Ethiopia: UNICEF and WHO join forces to save children

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UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) have come together in an unprecedented effort to curb climbing death rates among Ethiopian newborns, due to poor facilities and treatments found in Hospitals across the country.

According to a report released by UNICEF on October 6, 2009, the responsible causes of the climbing child death rate in Ethiopia include, the inability of health centers and hospitals in keeping newborns warm, preventing infection and ensuring successful neonatal resuscitation, when necessary. “Asphyxiation alone accounts for 23% of all neonatal deaths,” the report said.

The causes are easily preventable, but with only 40 per cent of all health centers and hospitals in Ethiopia having the facilities capable of providing essential care, up to 300 newly born children die each day in the Eastern African country.

The two international organizations in collaboration with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health have launched a Newborn Corner Initiative that aims to curb the tragic situation. The center “will address gaps in preventing newborn morbidity and mortality in the country thereby ensuring standard newborn care immediately after birth in health facilities”, Ted Chaiban, Country Representative of UNICEF said at the launching ceremony.

Although newborn care techniques usually require expensive equipment and complex manipulations, most of the cases at a basic Newborn Corner will ensure that a child receives the best possible care. A newborn corner requires key elements including, among other things, trained personnel, a warm and clean surface close to a water source as well as a well-lit area. Also, of utmost necessity are essential newborn resuscitation and care equipment and supplies, the report reads.

The basic newborn corner initiative will be undertaken at selected health centers and hospitals across Ethiopia until end of 2009.

Ethiopia is one of six countries where more than half of the world’s child deaths occur. A recent report released by Save the Children names the six countries with the highest infant mortality rates as; India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and China.

One in eight Ethiopian children die before reaching their 5th birthday, and 120,000 children die during the first month of life, often for treatable diseases like measles, pneumonia, birth and post natal complications, malaria, and diarrhea, with the last four ranking among top four child killer diseases.

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