Tanzania: One-tenth of Zanzibar's children die

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

DAR ES SALAAM, 13 Jul 2005 (IRIN) - For every 1,000 children born in Tanzania's semi-autonomous islands of Zanzibar and Pemba 102 of them die before they reach the age of five years, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

"Such a rate is unacceptable," Rodney Phillips, UNICEF's country representative in Tanzania told IRIN on Wednesday.

He said the causes of death were malnutrition, malaria, poverty and ignorance; and that Zanzibar needed a "revolution" in its child health policy.

Phillips said his statistical information came from a UNICEF project that includes an ongoing survey of child mortality rates combined with information gathered from the country's 2002 census.

On the Tanzanian mainland infant mortality had fallen from 99 for every 1,000 live births in 1996 to 68 deaths in 2005, Anna Abdallah, the minister of health said on Tuesday.

She attributed the improvement to successes in immunising children against polio, hepatitis, TB, diphtheria, whooping cough and measles. UNICEF's said slightly fewer children have been immunised in Zanzibar than in the rest of the country, which may add to the increasing rate of deaths there.

Phillips said Zanzibar needed to follow the example of Mauritius, another Indian Ocean island, which shared "various common factors". There, infant mortality is 14 out of 1,000.

Mauritius's infant mortality rate continues to drop due to improving social services and its impressive economic performance, he said. The annual per capita income of the average Mauritian is US $5,000, while in Zanzibar, as in other parts of Tanzania, it is $300.

To help lower the infant mortality rate in Zanzibar, UNICEF says it has projects to improve the island's water supply, health services and schools.


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