UNICEF Seeks Halt To Practices That Raise Liberian Child Mortality

by Ann Samuel on  January 26, 2008 at 2:15 PM Child Health News   - G J E 4
UNICEF Seeks  Halt  To Practices That  Raise Liberian Child Mortality
Esther Guluma ,the top UN children's fund official for west and central Africa, has urged its adults to abandon practices that raise the child mortality rate.

"Malnutrition is the underlined cause for child deaths," Guluma said in the central town of Gbarnga. "Liberian parents have to abandon traditions that are not necessarily good for the survival of children."

UNICEF said in a report released here on Tuesday that the child mortality rate is 235 deaths in every 1,000 live births.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf expressed concern that this is the fifth highest death toll among small children in the world.

In Gbarnga, Guluma launched her appeal after the medical director of the Phebe Hospital, the biggest health complex in the region, outlined some of the beliefs and customs that harm young children.

"We have a problem with the practice of our traditions," Doctor Garfee Williams said. "For instance a mother will refuse to give egg to her child because according to our tradition the egg can make a child to steal."

The UNICEF regional chief said: "We have community volunteers that we are using to talk to the parents so that they can be educated on the negative impact their cultural practice has on the survival of children."

Guluma arrived in Liberia on Monday and was due to go touring the country until Friday. From Gbarnga, she was set to go on to Zorzor and Voinjama, two large northeastern towns close to the border with Guinea.

UNICEF's 2008 report said that the child mortality rate in Liberia has not dropped since the 1990s, despite vaccination campaigns for pregnant women and their offspring and an end in 2003 to successive and brutal civil wars that began in 1989.

The country is still in difficulties, with a shortage of health care staff, while infrastructure destroyed in the conflicts has yet to be repaired.

Source: AFP

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