Health campaign critical to child survival in Guinea

News and Press Release
Originally published
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By Fatoumata Thiam Diallo

CONAKRY, Guinea, 07 January 2010 - Statistics are showing that the health situation for children in Guinea has been worsening.

With an under-five mortality rate of about one in seven, Guinea ranks among the 20 countries that are statistically most dangerous for children. Ninety out of every 1,000 infants under age one die each year in the country, and about one in every 19 women will die of maternal causes in their lifetime.

An influx of refugees from neighbouring conflicts in recent years has already stretched health resources in Guinea, and now evidence suggests that the overall health situation in the country could be worsening.

In 2007 and 2008, Guinea was polio-free, but, this year, World Health Organization officials have recorded 37 confirmed cases between May and December 2009. A recent global study on measles also found that while measles cases had dropped significantly in the last decade, a resurgence in countries like Guinea is likely if immunization efforts are not sustained.

Partnerships for children's needs

Recently, an Integrated Health Campaign was launched in Guinea. It was the first campaign that combined distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets with immunization against measles, distribution of vitamin A and de-worming to children under five years of age. Post partum women (0-2 months following the birth of the baby) were also given Vitamin A.

Many government officials gathered at the launching ceremony of the campaign, including the Prime Minister, the Ministers of Health and Decentralization, and UNICEF Representative in Guinea Julien Harneis. The celebration was held at the Matam health centre in Conakry.

The campaign targeted more than two million children under five years of age. Its aim was to help stop the spread of measles and reduce a severe malaria crisis for children. As for polio, the Government and its partners are multiplying efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

Carrying out the campaign

For about two weeks, a vaccination jingle played on all private and rural radio stations and on national television. The song was filled with messages inviting the population to bring any children under age five to health centres and other vaccination points.

Roughly 3,000 flyers, 1,200 aprons, 16,000 T-shirts, and 100 billboards were made, and around 1,500 social mobilizers and traditional communicators went throughout the community to inform people about the campaign and to explain how to use the mosquito nets.