Reducing child mortality focus of breakout session
Adriana de Jesus Barbosa is a beneficiary of the Healthy Mothers Program, which is coordinated by the Rotary Club of Rio de Janeiro-Saara, Brazil, and funded with the help of a Rotary Foundation Matching Grant.
Rotary Images/Alyce Henson
There are simple ways to reduce infant and child mortality and improve maternal health, Rotarians learned at a breakout session on 17 June organized by the Rotarian Action Group for Population Growth and Sustainable Development (RFPD).
Reducing child mortality is the main focus of RI President-elect Dong Kurn Lee’s emphases for the coming year.
Dr. Francisco Songane, director of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health, hosted by the World Health Organization, spoke at the session. He noted that the goals of reducing child mortality and improving maternal health are lagging behind the other UN Millennium Development Goals.
The obstetrician and former minister of health for Mozambique was joined on the discussion panel by Dr. Robert Zinser, RFPD vice chair, and Dr. Ekkehard Pandel, RFPD chair for Germany and director-elect for the 2009-11 RI Board.
More than 10 million children die every year from preventable causes, and 530,000 women die of pregnancy-related causes. “We cannot solve the problem of children without addressing the health of the mother,” stressed Songane.
Pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, and measles account for the majority of deaths of children under the age of five, Songane said, but malnutrition is often in the background. “In about 57 percent of the deaths, malnutrition is an underlying factor,” he said.
Skilled birth attendants, HIV testing, and mosquito nets are three vital interventions, Zinser said. Pandel, a pediatrician, added breastfeeding to that list. “It’s absolutely necessary to practice breastfeeding in the first days -- ideally for the first year,” he said. “It’s vital for prevention of infections and malnutrition.”
“It’s nothing fancy,” Songane said. “It’s not rocket science. We just have to take appropriate action.”
For Rotarians wanting to tackle these issues, Songane offered this advice: “Wherever the club or district is located, deal with the corresponding government in that place. Be part of what has been initiated in that country.