More than four million mothers and children to benefit during Madagascar’s third ‘Mother and Child Health Week’
Today marks the end of Madagascar’s third Mother and Child Health Week, which was officially launched by the Government of Madagascar on Monday, 22nd October 2007, in Fianarantsoa. This has been the one of the biggest health related operations ever seen in Madagasca to benefit more than four million mothers and children with a package of free health services.
The free package included: Vitamin A supplementation and de-worming of pregnant women or those who have recently given birth; vaccination against measles for children under the age of five; as well as the distribution of more than 1.5 million insecticide treated mosquito nets in 59 districts, in order to prevent the transmission of malaria. Experience from all over the world shows that this integrated package of interventions is proven to have a significant impact on reducing maternal and under-five mortality.
The Mother and Child Health Week also presented an opportunity to motivate parents to bring their children to the local health centre for routine immunisations. Furthermore, women attending antenatal consultations had the opportunity to benefit from a package of services that included preventive treatment against malaria, de-worming, tetanus vaccination, and HIV and AIDS testing to ensure the prevention of mother to child transmission of the disease, and promote family planning. It is expected that after the close of the week’s activities, there are now 50,000 more women who have begun to use some form of contraception.
Over the past nine days, approximately 12,000 health workers, 12,000 community health agents and 35,000 mobilisers traveled to every Fokontany of Madagascar to ensure the Mother and Child Heath Week’s success. More than 3,000 fixed sites and 5,500 advanced sites were established to reach every targeted mother and child in the country.
The importance of reaching the previously unreached is paramount to Dr. Perline Rahantanirina, Madagascar’s Vice Minister for Health, Family Planning and Social Protection. “The Mother and Child Health Weeks are absolutely essential in continuing Madagascar’s success in reducing child and maternal mortality,” she says. “Compared to last decade, 40,000 more children under the age of five are surviving each year. We want to build on this, and the primary way of doing so is to ensure that quality health services are made available to all. As part of this, we need to make sure that the most vulnerable women and children living in rural areas receive the healthcare they are entitled to.”
President Marc Ravalomanana reiterated this at the Week’s launch, drawing attention to the utmost importance of child and maternal health in the development of Madagascar. Furthermore, the President stressed his appreciation of ‘exceptional international partnership’ taking place during the week, with UNICEF and so many other partners having supported the Government in their efforts to reach the targets of the Madagascar Action Plan and Millennium Development Goals.
Also speaking at the launch, UNICEF Representative in Madagascar Bruno Maes highlighted all international partners’ appreciation of the Government’s leadership in establishing and running the bi-annual Mother and Child Health Weeks. “The Government’s unwavering commitment to child survival is hugely commendable, and has shown clear results in the declining child mortality rates. The international community will continue to support to the Government in focusing on the 60,000 children under five who continue to die each year from diseases that can not only be treated, but also prevented. As we all know, these deaths are wholly unnecessary, and something that we can tackle together, and at scale, as exhibited through the collaborative efforts of this Mother and Child Health Week.”
Since October 2006, the Government of Madagascar has institutionalised the Mother and Child Health Week as a strategy to reach out into the most isolated and difficult to reach areas of Madagascar, to benefit the unreached and underserved Malagasy children and their mothers. The Weeks take place every six months, and with less than ten years to reach the Millennium Development Goals – which call for a reduction in maternal mortality by three quarters and infant mortality by two thirds – the Malagasy Government, with the support of its many partners, aims to reach at least 80 per cent of all women and children with this package of high-impact and low-cost health interventions.
Under the leadership of the Government of Madagascar, the Mother and Child Health Weeks are the fruit of a broad partnership between various international and national organizations. Partners include: the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; Malaria No More; The President’s Malaria Initiative; Roll Back Malaria; Measles Initiatives; GAVI Alliance; United Nations Foundation; Sumitomo Chemical; Veestergaard-Frandsen; Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA); the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); German International Co-operation Enterprise (GTZ); The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Cross Societies (The American Red Cross; The Canadian Red Cross; The Malagasy Red Cross) ; Population Services International (PSI); the National Office for Nutrition; CRESAN; Salama; Civil society ; the Media; The World Bank; UNFPA; WHO and UNICEF.
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