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Malawi Successful In Reducing Infant Mortality

infant mortality
Malawi has reached its target set by the September 2000 Millennium Development Goals: to significantly reduce infant mortality before a child’s fifth birthday.

The numbers tell it all.

In 1990, 245 out of 1000 Malawian children were dying in infancy. By 2013 this number had been reduced to 68. The average number of infant deaths in sub-Saharan Africa is 92, making Malawi an example to the world.

Very simple measures were undertaken to achieve this encouraging result.

Making sure children sleep under a mosquito net, ensuring vaccinations were given on time and providing vitamin A were among the simple, low-cost and high-impact tactics used. Now more Malawi children are surviving than ever before.

Money has been invested in basic health workers who live within the communities in Malawi who give basic medical advice, detecting illnesses, referring patients onto doctors and providing a source of health information. These local health workers encourage new mothers to breastfeed to ensure babies are getting the nutrient-rich breast milk they need to survive.

Significant process has been made, but there is still a long way to go in Malawi and in Africa as a whole. Six million children still die a year – tragically, most of these are preventable deaths.

The neonatal period is particularly perilous for new-borns. It is during the first few hours and weeks of a child’s life, known as the neonatal stage, that more children die than at any other stage. In 2013, a staggering 2.8 million babies died within 28 days of their birth. This amounts to 44 percent of recorded deaths in children under five years olds, and 60 percent of these are due to problems in labor and delivery or preterm complications.

Although there are signs that things are improving, and countries like Malawi are reaching their targets early, UNICEF is predicting that the Millennium Development Goals, which are supposed to be met in 2015, will not be achieved until 2026. During this time, more children will die preventable death before their fifth birthday, unless urgent action is taken.

Charles Bell

Sources: BBC, UNICEF
Photo: Design Observer