WHO launches project to reduce child mortality in Somalia

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The World Health Organization (WHO) said it has launched a project to reduce the alarmingly high number of child deaths related to pneumonia and diarrhea in Somalia.

The project, launched in collaboration with King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief), is set to equip 28 health facilities across 10 select drought- and pneumonia-affected districts with solar-powered oxygen concentrators.

“The Every Breath Counts project aims to increase access to medical oxygen, set up mother and child health care, establish oral rehydration centers, and provide integrated health facilities in the fragile humanitarian setting of Somalia,” the WHO said in a joint statement issued Monday evening in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

Child mortality from all causes in Somalia is among the highest in the world, according to the WHO, noting that a child born in Somalia today is about 16.5 times more likely to die before the age of five years than a child elsewhere. The UN health agency said Every Breath Counts aims to reduce pneumonia and diarrhea-related morbidity and mortality among children under five years of age in the project’s target districts.

It said the project will also provide 90 oxygen cylinders, 15 baby incubators, and four ambulances in total to the selected health facilities. The project will also help set up 15 triage centers and oral rehydration centers.

According to the WHO, an estimated 230,127 children under five years of age and more than 3.3 million community members will benefit from the project interventions. Over 700 health workers will be trained on screening, outreach, and treatment procedures in the course of the project.

“KSrelief is investing in the future of Somalia by providing self-sustainable and environment-friendly solutions and ensuring that selected health facilities can run various medical procedures, especially for children and women without power interruptions,” said Supervisor General of KSrelief Abdullah Al Rabeeah.

The under-five mortality rate in Somalia currently is 117 per 1,000 live births, which is higher than the sub-Saharan African average of 76 deaths per 1,000 live births, the WHO said.

Approximately 21 percent of these deaths among children under five years of age in Somalia are attributed to pneumonia, while 18 percent to 20 percent of the deaths are attributed to diarrhoeal diseases.