Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Not so healthy Africa

Poverty and war are harming advances in infant mortality, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, a new Unicef report on global child health has said. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 28 of the 30 countries with the highest mortality rates.

Sierra Leone was the worst performer, with 270 deaths before the age of five per 1,000 live births, in 2006 figures. In Sierra Leone one in four children will die before their fifth birthday. In Sweden it is one in 350. In Sierra Leone one in eight mothers will die in childbirth. In Sweden 0ne in 17,400 mothers die in childbirth and one in 8,200 in the UK. Sweden has one of the best staffed health services in the world. It has 320 doctors per 100,000 people compared to two doctors per 100,000 people in Sierra Leone.

In Sub-Saharan Africa the annual average rate of reduction in the child mortality rate between 1990 and 2006 was only 1% per year - meaning the rate will have to increase to 10.5% per year between 2007 and 2015 if the region is to meet the fourth MDG.

26,000 infants under five die every day around the world. They mostly die from preventable causes such as diarrhoea, malaria, malnutrition, mother-to-child transmission of HIV, unsafe water, poor hygiene and neonatal problems.
The solutions to child deaths are well-known, says the report - "simple, reliable and affordable interventions with the potential to save two-thirds of the children currently at risk are readily available". Such interventions that have already been shown to be effective include promoting breast-feeding, immunisation, vitamin A supplementation and the use of mosquito nets.

Sierra Leone: 270
Angola: 260
Afghanistan: 257
Niger: 253
Liberia: 235

A Remarkable Doctor

Samuel Kargbo stayed in Sierra Leone throughout the horrendous civil war. He brought basic health services and vaccines to children who lived in the rebel areas. He had to negotiate his way across checkpoints and his life was frequently at risk. Now he is one of just two doctors in a region of nearly 300,000 people. Having trained in Russia, Germany and the UK, Dr Kargbo could easily get a job overseas. But he refuses to leave.
"A lot of doctors who qualify in Freetown, go abroad", he said. "Some forget that the greatest need is here".
He earns around $200 - £100 - a month.

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador , the England international football player , David Beckham said: “We can’t turn a blind eye to the tens of thousands of young children who die every day in the developing world mostly from causes that are preventable...Saving these children’s lives is a top priority for UNICEF and as an Ambassador I hope I can help to draw attention to this issue across the world.”

Socialist Banner , however , knows it takes more than well-meaning words from a millionaire sports star to change things . It is socialist revolution , not press releases , that will change how people will live or die .

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