Government must reduce child death rate

Government should reduce child death rate – NewsDay Zimbabwe. 18 June 2014 Editorial

Zimbabwe is one of the countries in Africa that are not on target for the attainment of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) number 4 despite improvements in child mortality rates as shown by successive national surveys.

NewsDay Editorial

No doubt the country needs to reduce the under-five mortality rate if the MDG 4 is to be achieved by 2015. Many health systems and essential service delivery challenges are known to counter efforts towards the control and management of common childhood illnesses.

But, many children in the country continue to die unnecessarily due to poor access to recommended treatments.

This is particularly the case for diarrhoea, typhoid and pneumonia. According to a recent Health and Child Care ministry disease surveillance, 42 people succumbed to diarrhoea last week bringing the total of diarrhoea-induced deaths to 409 since the beginning of the year. Regrettably, 23 of the deaths were of children below the age of five years.

It is important that government understands that service delivery is not complete without availability of drugs and supplies required to offer treatment. Drugs used in health facilities have to be the right ones recommended to treat children; they have to be available in the right quantities to ensure demand is met and they have to be delivered as and when needed.

Government should therefore accelerate the control and management of childhood diarrhoea and other diseases thus contributing to the attainment of MDG 4 by reducing significantly mortality attributed to diarrhoea among other diseases.

With less than a year to the MDG deadline, Zimbabwe and other countries remain far from achieving the targets set.

It is important for the country to substantially invest in managing childhood illnesses both at the community and facility levels.

The new vaccines will make important progress against these killers, but both conditions will remain among the largest causes of mortality even once the vaccines are fully rolled out.

The government recently launched a rota-virus vaccination programme to curb the spread of diarrhoea among children, but interventions leave a lot to be desired given the fact that the mortality seems to be on the rise nonetheless.

So Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa must make some explanations to the nation on what interventions are being put in place to contain the illnesses. Parirenyatwa must strengthen the commodity management of essential medicines and ensure security of the commodities used in diarrhoea and other childhood illnesses in the public sector.

It appears that the ministry currently lacks a child health commodities and supplies co-ordinating arm or function to support national commodity security. It is therefore important for government to become more involved in commodity management as this directly impacts on service delivery and subsequent uptake of recommended treatments.

It is imperative that the ministry also strengthens procurement of diarrhoea medicines and advocate for increased allocation of resources from government and donors to procure adequate commodities to match the need for diarrhoea management.

Besides, availing services at facility and community levels without investing in demand creation will lead to underutilised services. Hence, advocacy, communication and social mobilisation are core in ensuring that the public is educated on all aspects of health promotion, disease prevention and home-based case management of main child killers.

The country cannot allow more deaths as if it is normal for children to die in such numbers. This is not a war zone.

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