KENYA – Kenya marks the World Pneumonia and Prematurity Day with calls to enhance child survival programs across the country dominating discussions during the session.
Health stakeholders deliberated on innovative technological solutions aimed at reducing deaths of children under five through low cost interventions for protection, prevention and treatment of diseases. They also called for the strengthening of child health services at the county level through targeted training and equipping facilities with life-saving commodities.
Pneumonia remains the leading cause of death in children under five years. In 2018, the number of under-five child deaths in the country resulting from pneumonia stood at 9,000 which translates to at least one child dying every hour. Additionally, 183,600 babies are born preterm in Kenya with the birth rate set at 12%.
Ministry of Health Acting Director for Preventive and Promotive Health Services Dr. Andrew Mulwa while leading the joint celebrations said several measures are in place to reverse the trend.
“The two days are key in the health calendar as they act as an advocate tool for fighting the leading causes of under-five and neonatal mortality which remains a key issue of public health concern in our country,” Dr. Mulwa told the gathering.
He at the same time raised concern over an increment in the number of preterm babies even as he called for the need to support them as well as address deaths of under-fives due to pneumonia.
“Interventions in place to ensure improvement of under 5 health outcomes include; increased uptake of medication for management of diarrhea in children under five years, improved exclusive breastfeeding practices, introduction of new childhood vaccines like pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines, advocacy to ensure availability of essential medicines in facilities and strengthening community interventions to ensure early health seeking behavior,’’ noted Dr. Mulwa.
Head of the Department of Family Health at the Ministry of Health Dr. Issak Bashir in his remarks urged communities to adopt simple proven solutions to end pre-term child deaths. This include the kangaroo care program that has been rolled out in 40 counties.
“We need solutions that focus on high impact but low-cost interventions such as kangaroo care which requires skin to skin contact between the mother and the new born at no cost,’’ said Dr. Bashir.
His sentiments were echoed by Dr. Caroline Mwangi, the Head of the Division of Neonatal and child health at the ministry of health. Dr. Mwangi said the vision of the division was to have a Kenya where all newborns survive, thrive and live to their fullest potential.
“We are also mandated to provide access to quality and comprehensive early childhood development interventions for children especially in the first 1000 days of life,” she informed the meeting.
Other low-cost interventions to effectively improve preterm survival include steroid injections to speed up the development of the baby’s lungs and rational use of antibiotics to treat neonatal sepsis.
Some of the drivers of pneumonia deaths among under-fives include; poor health seeking behavior, delays in seeking care/referral, lack of quality inpatient care, ineffective treatments, sub-optimal support for caregivers to get appropriate timely medication and inappropriate or inadequate outpatient treatments.
In the last one year, five counties reported a high prevalence of pneumonia among children namely; Narok, Samburu, Westpokot, Marsabit and Mandera.
World Pneumonia day will be marked on the 12th of November while the World Prematurity Day will be celebrated on the 17th of November 2021. The 2021 theme for world prematurity day is “zero separation act now” while the theme for the world pneumonia day is “stop pneumonia, every breath counts.”