Reducing Child Mortality in Kazakhstan26 august 2013, 15:58
Presentation of Mr. Jun Kukita, UNICEF Representative in Kazakhstan at the Office of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan
I would like to start my presentation by congratulating the Government with a good news for children.
The UN Expert Group on Child Mortality Estimate has visited Kazakhstan in June and confirmed two key results.
First, Kazakhstan’s health and demographic data collection and management system has improved significantly. So the statistics provided are more accurate and reliable. Secondly, Child deaths in Kazakhstan have also been reduced significantly, much faster than the global trend.
As you can see the red line which shows actual trend in Kazakhstan went down below the black dotted line of the UN estimate. Particularly child death immediately after birth showed significant reduction. This is due to the improvement of maternal and child care system led by the Ministry of Health in all oblasts, as the Health Minister has just described. These efforts should be continued and strengthened.
Jun Kukita. Photo courtesy of www.unicef.kz
Last year’s Child Mortality in Kazakhstan is now estimated to be around 19, which means that out of 1000 babies born 19 die before the age of five. In 1990, 23 years ago 54 children were dying. So the reduction is about 65%. This means that Kazakhstan has almost achieved its Millennium Development Goal on Child Mortality before 2015 deadline. It is a highly respectable achievement. Kazakhstan will be ranked around top 100 among nations and equal to many of the Latin American countries, such as Colombia, Brazil and Mexico.
If Kazakhstan wants to further accelerate this trend of fast improvements and reach the top 50, which is equal to the United States and Malaysia, or even higher to top 30, like Australia, UK and Korea, we suggest the Government to consider taking two high impact interventions and two broad and long term interventions.
First high impact intervention is to focus on the poor and rural families. Evidence shows that these families have much higher Child Mortality rate. So, by focusing on them, your returns on budget investment will be higher, and there will be much more equitable society. There is a need to improve rural health system and outreach programme, so that all families can get the minimum health package that the Ministry of Health is providing.
Secondly, we suggest investing in high impact micronutrient interventions for entire population. Micronutrients mean minerals like iodine and iron or vitamins like Vitamin A and B. People can take these in three ways;
1) First from their bread by adding iron and other minerals and vitamins to flour products, this stops anaemia and raise children’s IQ and people’s productivity. Anaemia also kills women during child delivery.
2) Secondly, from the table salt by adding iodine. Kazakhstan is doing this but should maintain 100%. This boosts growth and development of child’s body and brain. This ensures another 10 IQ point for children and makes them big and healthy. Even large investment in pre-schools and big school infrastructure cannot compensate such lost capability.
3) Give Vitamin A capsules to children under 5, except for babies less than 6 months as they get immunity from mother’s breast milk. This makes children stronger against disease, and prevents many deaths.
The cost of all these are very small and it gives huge benefit to your country. You can save your children’s lives and also medical expenses. As Kazakhstan is a major exporter of flour, if you fortify flour and export them you can help your neighbours. This is a great contribution to global nutrition.
Regarding the broad intervention to reach at a higher level of maternal and child mortality, we have to reach each family and provide them with the latest knowledge and best practices, such as the value of breastfeeding or how to prevent diarrhoea and pneumonia. They are the first defenders of children.
Secondly, we have to have multisectoral collaboration. Because many other factors contribute to the survival of children and women, such as housing conditions including clean water supply and sanitation, household income and education or road safety and transportation. So for improvement of those, all sectors should contribute and work closely with each other.
In this way Kazakhstan can reach the highest point in harnessing the potential of your children to the maximum level. I trust Kazakhstan can show the world the fastest improvement for children’s health and wellbeing.
The last slide is the summary of what we are currently supporting your government to further improve the lives of children and women in this country, which will also raise the global competitiveness of Kazakhstan, including:
Prevention of HIV transmission.
Prevention of early social orphans
Reduction of child disability
Youth health centres and suicide prevention
Monitoring of quality of MCH services
Promotion of healthy growth and development of early age children.