World Health Day

The Zambian Health Minister bemoans the high rates of maternal and child deaths in the country

One out of six children born in Zambia will not live to see their fifth birthday.
Out of every 100,000 deliveries in Zambia, 729 mothers die of a pregnancy related complication.

Press release for World Health Day Great Debate in Zambia

On 6th April 2005, the eve of World Health Day 2005, The Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Brian Chituwo, and the World Health Organization (WHO) Representative, Dr. Stella Anyangwe, led a national discussion on “Why mothers and children are dying needlessly in the 21st century”. The discussion was in line with the theme of the World Health Day 2005 “Make every mother and child count” and focused on what mothers and children in Zambia were dying of and what was being done to avoid the unnecessary deaths. Special attention was also made on what Zambia should be doing to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of reducing maternal deaths by three quarters, and reducing child mortality by two thirds by the year 2015.

The Minister of Health, Dr Brian Chituwo bemoaned the high rates of maternal and child mortality in the country which stand at 729/100,000 deliveries and 168/1000 live births respectively. The Minister re-iterated the commitment of the government of Zambia to accelerate access to maternal and child health services. He informed the nation that the government’s efforts to reduce preventable maternal deaths every maternal death in the country will be audited, both in health facilities and in communities. The government is also reviewing the practice in government health facilities of asking mothers to purchase certain delivery items such as cord clamps, baby wrappers etc, which are deterring mothers accessing skilled attendance at delivery. In efforts to tackle the human resource crisis facing the nation, the government has introduced a rural retention scheme which provides incentives for medical doctors working in rural areas. Dr. Chituwo also urged all partners to join government in improving the health of women and children in the country in order to make a difference.

The World Health Organization Representative Dr. Stella Anyangwe stated that the knowledge and tools to prevent maternal and child deaths exist, therefore there is need to ensure that effective interventions reach every mother and child. In helping with the current human resource crisis in the health sector, she indicated that WHO provides fellowships for training of health personnel and assists in retention of some lecturers in the Medical School of the University of Zambia. She emphasized that WHO is committed to the provision of support to help Zambia achieve the Millennium Development Goals on maternal and child mortality reduction.

Key issues highlighted in the discussion included the fact that the health of mothers and children lay in the hands of everyone and not just the health sector and other partners in health development. A call was made to the Government to seriously address the human resource crisis which is adversely affecting the health sector, especially the delivery of maternal and child health services. The education of the “girl child” emerged as another priority for the country in order to ensure that women are empowered to take care of their health and their children. Accelerated access to effective maternal and child health interventions was vital to achieving the Millennium Development Goals on maternal and child mortality reduction. An urgent call was made for the Zambian government to increase government spending on health. This is in line with the Abuja declaration of 2000, where African leaders committed themselves to halve the malaria mortality for Africa’s people by 2010, and also in keeping with the African Heads of State pledge to allocate the resource required for sustained implementation of planned Roll Back Malaria actions, including significant increases to country health budgets.

The fruitful discussion was moderated by Dr. Mannasseh Phiri, a medical doctor and was aired live on both national radio and television. There was a live studio audience of 40 people comprising policy makers, civil society organizations, and technical experts in maternal and child health as well as consumers from the community. Several members of the public participated in the discussion through an open phone-line. The panel included the chairperson of the Non-Governmental Organization Coordinating Committee, Ms Lucy Muyoyeta, representing civil society and Mr. Francis Ndovi, a well known radio and television journalist who had lost his wife and newborn during child birth. The discussion was organized by World Health Organization, Ministry of Health, United Nations Children’s Fund, United States Agency for International Development and other partners.

For more information contact:

Dr. Kasonde Mwinga - National Professional Office/Integrated Management of Childhood Illness
WHO/Zambia
Telephone: +260 1 255322/336/398
Mobile phone: +260 96 436577
E-mail: mwingak@zm.afro.who.int

Nora Mweemba - Health Information and Promotion Officer
WHO/Zambia
Telephone: +260 1 255322/336/398
Mobile phone: +260 97 873976
E-mail: mweemban@zm.afro.who.int

Patricia Kamanga - National Professional Office/making Pregnancy Safer
WHO/Zambia
Telephone: +260 1 255322/336/398
Mobile phone: +260 97 773526
E-mail: kamangap@zm.afro.who.int

Dr. Victor Mukonka - Director Public Health and Research
Central Board of Health
P.O. Box 32588, Lusaka
Telephone: +260 1 253179
Mobile phone: +260 97 844754
E-mail: vmukonka@cboh.org.zm

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