Mortality rate among children below age five years in Sub-Saharan Africa has been falling by 4.1 per cent yearly between 2, 000 and 2015, a research by the Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KHDS) has shown.
In Kenya, the Beyond Zero initiative by the First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has helped reduce maternal deaths by half due to the ease in access of medical services through the mobile clinics that has reduced the distance women used to walk by 20 kilometers.
Chairman Kenya Pediatric Association (KPA) Dr. Thomas Ngwiri says improved maternal health through the free delivery program and improved health facilities has seen many women coming out in large numbers to seek maternal health services in government institutions.
Dr. Ngwiri spoke on Wednesday during the 17th Annual Scientific Conference hosted by the KPA dubbed “beyond survival” held at a Kisumu hotel.
However, little has been done towards bettering the health of children beyond the age of five, a move that has seen the Kenya Pediatric Association (KPA) has come out to intervene, we are looking forward to seeing children not only survive but also thrive,” he said.
“While previous conferences have had emphasis on infants and young children, survival beyond the first two years has been quite depressive hence the need to carry it beyond the first years,” said Dr. Ngwiri.
Researchers and scientist have however noted that there has been a decline in childhood deaths by 52 deaths per every 1, 000 live births, a drop from the 74 out of 1, 000 live births reported in the 2008-2009.
The scientific conference has attracted stakeholders from the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), lead health specialists, researchers and the World Bank who are keen on the modalities on the development of children in the county.
The Pediatric age group of between 0-18 years has remained politically powerless and vulnerable, factors that lead to their deaths and those of their offspring in the future.
“Poor health among children will definitely be carried forward to the children they will bear hence are the key sources and causes of maternal deaths and problems,” said Dr. David Githanga, a member of the KPA scientific committee.
Drug abuse, poor nutrition, sanitation/pollution, health systems, poor breast feeding habits, lack of knowledge and dirty water have been identified as the causes of illnesses among children above the age of five.
“After helping a mother deliver and reducing maternal mortality we do not teach the very mother how to keep the child in good health,” added Githanga.
He added that children are very pro-active, making them susceptible to respiratory and nutritional diseases for example diarrhea that comes as a result of poor sanitation.
The KPA has held a nutrition symposium where participants talk about matters to do with good nutrition which is essential in brain and neurological development to growing children.
He disclosed that they started a program to help boost a better environment citing Kakamega Home for the Deaf in Kakamega County where they donated cooking jikos which were both environment and health friendly.
Githanga also said that physical activity should be taken seriously by parents so as the children will have proper bone development for strength.
“Exercise of the body is also important so as burn some disease causing calories and enhancing body health,” he said.
He said that proper sanitation and clean water is a basic need to children for better development, adding that the solution should be in the community where there is upstream intervention.
KPA is training a number of people on allergy, asthma and neurology to help deal with such illnesses which are prone among the children above the age of five.
“In as much as the efforts by KPA may be worthy of the task, upstream intervention from the concerned departments remain key,” added Githanga.
He said the health sector has no control over some factors contributing to ill health among children above the age of five.
“For instance despite the fact that it is the work of a doctor to treat children suffering from malnutrition, it is not their duty to provide the necessary nutrition that is why we are involving other stakeholders in this,” said Githanga.
Child nutrition has been seen as a crosscutting issue in the physical, mental and emotional well-being of children, therefore, any form of mitigation of malnutrition is a step in the right direction.