Twelve years ago, 198 heads of states and governments gathered in New York and agreed on important eight goals to be achieved in 15 years time.
These are referred to as Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that ideally should be met by 2015.
Today, different countries have registered laudable improvements in various areas such as education, reduction of poverty levels and reduction of child and maternal death rates.
However, it is now certain that many countries especially those in Africa will not meet the MDGs.
This week, the continent is hosting a very important meeting that can accelerate efforts to achieve the MDGs. Specifically, MDG 4(reducing child mortality) and 5 (improving maternal health). The Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) that brings together legislators from across the globe is conducting the 126th Summit in Kampala, from March 31 to April 5. As the delegates to this important meeting ready for the deliberations on various issues, it is imperative that we all reflect on the health of children especially those under five years.
A report by Unicef in 2009 revealed that nearly 9 million children die annually before their fifth birthday globally. This accounts for about 24,000 deaths annually of children under the age of five globally.
This is unacceptable given that the deaths are caused largely by readily preventable conditions.
The leading causes of these deaths are identified as: Birth (neonatal) complications & infections (40%); Pneumonia (19%); Diarrhoea (18%); Malaria (8%); HIV and Aids (3%) and Measles (2%). Malnutrition is an underlying cause of 35% of child deaths.
According to the Lancet report (2009), 99% of child deaths occur in developing countries with 30 of these countries including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia accounting for 81% of under-five child deaths.
Reducing child mortality (MDG 4) and improving maternal health (MDG 5) are best accomplished through investments in prevention and treatment at the community level and linking health systems more effectively to the families and communities they serve.