International: African countries slash infant deaths
By James Addis
A new research paper released by the World Bank shows a substantial decline in infant mortality in Kenya and more than a dozen other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
The paper, “What has Driven the Decline of Infant Mortality in Kenya?” written by Gabriel Demombynes and Sofia Karina Trommlerová, says that Kenya has led the way in reducing infant mortality and notes that a major factor in its success is the increased ownership of insecticide-treated bed nets that protect children from malaria.
The paper notes Kenya’s infant mortality rate has fallen by 7.6 per cent per year in the last five years — the fastest rate of decline in the region. It says 58 per cent of this decline can be attributed to increased ownership of bed nets.
Top ten African countries to slash infant mortality (per cent decline per year since 2005)
The research comes as World Vision continues a US$60 million campaign to distribute millions of bed nets in Africa and educate communities about their use, in an effort to eliminate preventable malaria deaths in its project areas.
So far, the effort has seen the distribution of almost 2 million nets in Kenya, Zambia, and Mozambique.
The organisation plans to distribute more than 1 million nets in Mali in the coming months and expand the programme to include Uganda and Ethiopia.
Rose Craigue, a World Vision health sector specialist based in Washington, D.C., says in some areas where nets have been distributed malaria prevalence already has dropped by 60 per cent.
Meanwhile, the World Bank paper says the declines in infant and under-5 mortality in Africa are largely unrecognised trends that merit further analysis.
In addition to the increased use of nets, it suggests new public health initiatives, better access to water and sanitation, and overall improvements in living standards have contributed to the gains.
According to The Economist the decline in African under-5 child mortality is speeding up, and the rate of improvement far exceeds those exhibited by some countries, such as China, that have experienced strong economic growth in recent years.