We need solutions that focus on high impact but low cost interventions such as kangaroo care that require skin-to-skin contact between mother and newborn at no cost.
Health actors deliberated on innovative technological solutions aimed at reducing the deaths of children under five through low-cost interventions for the protection, prevention and treatment of disease. They also called for strengthening child health services at the county level through targeted training and equipping facilities with life-saving commodities.
Pneumonia remains the leading cause of death in children under five. In 2018, the number of child deaths under the age of five in the country resulting from pneumonia stood at 9,000, which translates to at least one child dying every hour. In addition, 183,600 babies are born prematurely in Kenya with a birth rate set at 12%.
The Ministry of Health’s acting director of preventive and promotional health services, Dr Andrew Mulwa, as he led the joint celebrations, said several measures were in place to reverse the trend.
“The two days are essential in the health calendar as they act as an advocacy tool to tackle the main causes of under-five and neonatal mortality which remains a major public health problem in our country,” said Dr Mulwa to the assembly.
At the same time, he expressed his concerns about the increase in the number of premature babies even as he called for the need to support them as well as to tackle the deaths of children under five due to pneumonia.
“Interventions in place to ensure improved health outcomes for children under 5 include; increased use of medicines for the management of diarrhea in children under five, improved exclusive breastfeeding practices, introduction of new childhood vaccines such as pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines, advocacy to ensure availability of essential medicines in facilities and strengthening community interventions to ensure early health care seeking behavior, ” noted Dr Mulwa.
The head of the Department of Family Health at the Ministry of Health, Dr Issak Bashir, in his remarks urged communities to adopt simple and proven solutions to end premature child deaths. This includes the kangaroo care program which has been rolled out to 40 counties.
“We need solutions that focus on high impact but low cost interventions such as kangaroo care that require skin-to-skin contact between mother and newborn at no cost,” said Dr Bashir.
Her feelings were echoed by Dr Caroline Mwangi, head of the neonatal and child health division at the ministry of health. Dr Mwangi said the division’s vision was to have a Kenya where all newborns survive, thrive and live to their full potential.
“We also have a mandate to provide access to comprehensive and quality early childhood development interventions for children, especially in the first 1000 days of life. She informed the meeting.
Other inexpensive interventions to effectively improve premature survival include steroid injections to speed up baby’s lung development and the rational use of antibiotics to treat neonatal sepsis.
Development partners who attended the event called for continued partnerships to scale up interventions and eliminate the drivers of newborn and child death at national and subnational levels.
Some of the drivers of pneumonia deaths in the under-five age group include; poor care seeking behavior, delays in seeking care / referral, lack of quality hospital care, ineffective treatment, suboptimal support for caregivers to obtain appropriate and timely medication and inappropriate or inadequate outpatient treatment.
In the past year, five counties reported a high prevalence of pneumonia in children, namely; Narok, Samburu, Westpokot, Marsabit and Mandera.
World Pneumonia Day will be celebrated on November 12 while World Prematurity Day will be celebrated on November 17, 2021. The 2021 theme for World Prematurity Day is “Zero separation act now” while the theme for the day world of pneumonia is “” stop pneumonia, every breath counts.