Ghana hosts international child health symposium

Ghana is hosting an international symposium aimed at reviewing child health care efforts geared towards improving child and maternal-newborn health in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dubbed the Integrated Community Case Management (iCCM) Evidence Review Symposium, the three-day meeting being attended by close to 400 representatives from 40 countries would also identify opportunities to assist African countries to integrate and take action on key frontline iCCM findings presented during the symposium.

Key stakeholders made up of child health experts, researchers and government officials are to share best practices and lessons learned in iCCM programme areas and develop country plans for implementing iCCM where it can have the most impact on saving children’s lives.

Each year 6.6 million children under the age of five die from preventable causes diseases globally while in sub-Saharan Africa, three easily preventable and treatable diseases namely diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria collectively account for more than half of all child deaths.

iCCM, is therefore designed by donor partners and African governments under which trained and supervised community health workers deliver pneumonia, malaria and diarrhea treatment to children living in communities beyond the reach of medical facilities.

At the opening of the symposium, Ghana’s Health Minister, Mrs Sherry Ayittey, said Ghana like many other countries in the region had made progress in reducing under five deaths, giving way to declined rates from 108 per 1000 live births in 1998 to 82 per 1,000 live births in 2012.

She said however that a lot more could be done to further reduce such avoidable deaths among children by developing health systems which are capable of reaching the most deprived and marginalized children with treatment and preventive services.

Ms Ayittey said it was important that the iCCM of malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea targets communities which are far from health facilities such as hospitals and other health centres.

“In this way children in such communities suffering from any of these diseases can be seen and treated by trained community health volunteer before the disease becomes severe”.

She said since 2009, health interventions like the distribution and promotion of use of insecticide treated nets, indoor residual spraying, limited larviciding as well as malaria vaccine trial were being developed in partnership with stakeholders and development partners, all in the effort of protecting children from dying.

Ms Ayittey said with less than two years remaining to achieve Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4- (to reduce under five mortality by two-thirds), there was need to quickly bring all known effective interventions together to scale in order to make faster progress.

Dr Kesete Admasu, Ethiopian Health Minister, said African governments needed lots of political commitments to scale-up the ideals of iCCM and also speed up the process to ensure quality health care for all children in the region.

Dr Susan Namondo Ngongi, UNICEF Country Representative in Ghana, said the symposium was expected to help participants improve iCCM implementation and to achieve better results for children, especially among those who have not been reach by the formal health service delivery system.

Other representatives of Donor partners including WHO, USAID, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Canadian Governments all emphasized on the issue of access and cost to health care for children in Africa, saying it was a real challenge which needed to be dealt with to ensure that children are well protected until they are above five years old.

Ghana, Ethiopia and Niger are among some 15 African countries said to be on track of achieving MDG 4. GNA

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