These and other findings are published in the latest 5th edition of the South African Child Gauge 2009/2010 launched in Cape Town this week.

The report points out that South Africa is one of 12 countries failing to make progress in reducing child deaths, one of the Millennium Development Goals.

Speaking at the launch Nomathemba Mazaleni, director at Management Science for Health in South Africa highlighted the need for more home based care workers.

She said those battling to reduce child deaths could learn from the achievements made in the fight against HIV through community engagement. She said the spirit that was shown by organisations such as the Treatment Actions Campaign in fighting HIV was needed in the fight to reduce child deaths.

‘€œCommunities took up the challenge of HIV/AIDS. They took care of the sick and called for access to (antiretroviral) treatment. The same energy that has been put into HIV care could be use in child health care. Community based health workers are resources that we could tap into in order to improve child health,’€ she said.

Mazaleni said the same home based care workers taking care of HIV patients could be trained to check that children had been immunised or if they have been checked for any other preventable illnesses.

She said home based care workers could equip families with the skills and knowledge to prevent and treat child illnesses.

Prof David Sanders, founding director of the School of Public health in the University of the Western Cape said it remained critical to highlight the role played by underlying issues such as poverty.

He said childdeaths were rooted in poverty and this compromised children’€™s immunity and increased their exposure to illness and injury.

South Africa’€™s under five mortality rate was  56 deaths per 1000 live births in 1990 but aims to reduce these deaths to at least 20 deaths per 1 000 births by 2015 have been unsuccessful. The mortality rate currently stands at 67 deaths per 1000 births.

HIV and neonatal related deaths accounted for the largest number of child deaths  while older children mostly died due to injuries.

Malathi Pillai, a representative of UNICEF said it was shocking that a developing country as resourced as South Africa was failing to reduce its child mortality rates.   She said it was encouraging to see that the political will was there from the current government to overturn the current situation.


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