LUSAKA, Zambia (By Mark Maseko/UNICEF) – A coalition of Zambian civil society organizations has launched an alliance aimed at helping to reduce maternal, neonatal and child deaths. In Zambia, one out of 22 children die before reaching the age of one and one in every 13 children does not survive their fifth birthday. The maternal mortality rate among women age 15-49 is 0.74 maternal deaths per 1,000 births, a rate that has fallen by 39 percent since 2007.
The alliance, which was launched in Lusaka on 31 March, is a response to A Promise Renewed – Committing to Child Survival, a global campaign that 178 governments as well as thousands of civil society organizations and the private sector have united to give every child the best possible start in life.
Speaking at the launch of the Zambia Alliance for Maternal Neonatal and Child Health (ZAMNCH), Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health Permanent Secretary Elwyn Chomba expressed the Zambian Government’s appreciation of the initiative. In a speech read on her behalf by the ministry’s Director of Mother and Child Health Dr. Caroline Phiri, Professor Chomba noted that addressing issues of maternal, neonatal and child health require concerted efforts.
“The move to launch the ZAMNCH Alliance here in Zambia is greatly appreciated by the Government as we are all aware that to address issues of maternal and neonatal and child health require a shared strategy by both Government and national stakeholders,’ said Professor Chomba.
She noted that the Zambian Government wants to ensure that maternal, neonatal and child health outcomes are enshrined as key goals of national development policies and plans, as enshrined in the Zambian Government’s Roadmap for Accelerating Maternal, Newborn and Child Mortality, 2013-2016.
UNICEF Zambia Representative Dr. Hamid El-Bashir Ibrahim said that Zambia’s excellent reduction in maternal and child deaths recorded in the last 10 years should not lead to complacency.
“This is a collective achievement for which the Government and all partners deserve commendation. However, a single death of a child or that of a mother is one too many and even more appalling is that many of these deaths are the result of causes that we know how to prevent and treat,” Dr. Ibrahim said, in a speech read on his behalf by UNICEF Zambia Health Specialist Rodgers Mwale
ZAMNCH Chairperson O’Brien Mashinkila said that the alliance will mobilize stakeholders in developing a common agenda to reduce maternal and child deaths.
Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Health, Community Development and Social Welfare, Hon. Likando Mufalali, MP, said that the formation of the alliance would help in ensuring the good health of women and children in Zambia. He urged all members to focus on achieving the programme’s outcomes. World Vision Zambia Director of Advocacy and Communications Wanga Saili called on the Government to increase its national budget resource allocation to the health sector.
In a related development, the Zambian Government last month announced a reduction in maternal and child mortality. According to the 2013-14 Demographic Health Survey results announced, infant mortality has declined from 70 to 45 deaths per 1,000 live births since 2007. Under-five mortality has declined from 119 to 75 deaths per 1,000 live births while the maternal mortality ratio is now 398 deaths per 100,000 live births from 591 in 2007.
Mark Maseko is a Communication Officer with UNICEF Zambia.