WHO Reaffirms Its Commitment To Promote The Health Of Children In The Region

"Africa's Newborns Constitute The Forgotten Children. Of the more than 4 million neonatal deaths globally each year, the majority are in Sub-Saharan Africa where neonatal mortality rate is 45 deaths per 1000 live births compared with 34 in Asia, 17 in Latin America, and 5 in industrialized countries.

"The vast majority of neonatal death are due to three main causes : birth asphyxia (40%) ; low birth weight and prematurity (25%) ; and infections (20%). Many long terms disabilities are as a result of problems experienced at birth and in the early neonatal period."

"Early childhood is a period during which morbidity and mortality are very high in Africa. Over the 10 million childhood deaths in the world, 75% occur in Africa. They are due to diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections, AIDS, malaria, and vaccine preventable diseases. These diseases are preventable and treatable, but health care and services are not accessible to the majority of children in poor and disadvantaged families."

This message was delivered today at the WHO Regional Office Headquarters in Brazzaville (Congo) by Dr Ebrahim M. Samba, the Regional Director for Africa, speaking on the occasion of the Day of the African Child commemorated each year on June 16.

"It is a day on which nations, families and communities should reflect on the challenges and threats that compromise the healthy growth and development of children, and their health and well-being."

Dr Samba points out child abuse and neglect, particularly child sexual abuse, which remain a silent emergency in the Region, and the ever increasing phenomenon of children living in difficult circumstances in many countries in Africa. They include orphans, children living in the streets, refugees and internally displaced, child soldiers.

Dr Samba urges African countries to critically reassess their health and development programmes to improve growth, nutrition, education, and other aspects of child development.

The Regional Director stresses the need for countries to reaffirm their commitment in order, amomg others, to increase resources ; support families and communities to improve the quality of life for all children.

He wishes all children, parents and communities a happy and meaningful Day of the African Child, and reaffirms WHO commitment to work with Member States and Partners to promote programmes for the protection of children against disease, injuries, abuse and neglect, and untimely deaths.

Various aspects of the work of WHO with Member States and Partners are: "advocate for and strengthen programmes that promote healthy development of children ; review and/or develop and implement appropriate policies, programmes, legislation, strategies and operational plans for newborn care, child and adolescent health and development ; advocate for, and promote creation of safe and supportive environments for children free from violence, protected from disease, and without discrimination and, develop mechanisms to address childrens' needs.

"Investing in children will no doubt contribute to Africa's development and competitiveness in the global market ", Dr Samba says.

For further information, please contact

Flavienne Issembè 
Public Information and Communication Unit 
Tel : (00-242) 839352 , 839378 , 839382

Dr Maruping Arabang, 
Regional Adviser for Child and Adolescent Health 
Tel : (00-242) 839112

Dr Doyin Oluwole 
Director of the Division Family and Reproductive Health 
Tel : (00-242) 839478

Email : issembef [at] afro.who.int ; regafro [at] afro.who.int