High rate of child mortality is a major problem in most low and middle income countries around the world, including Tanzania.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that the under-five mortality rates in Tanzania dropped from 112 deaths per 1000 live births in 2005 to 81 deaths per 1000 live births in 2010.
Deaths of infants less than one year also decreased from 68 to 51 per 1000 live births over the same period according to UNICEF but these are still quite significant numbers.
The ministries responsible have already taken and still continue taking steps to ensure the reduction of the child death rates in their respective countries.
The steps taken include ensuring extensive immunization programs for children against common diseases, providing vitamin supplements, encouraging use of treated mosquito nets and better anti-malarial drugs.
Sadly, UNICEF mentions that despite improvements, close to 400 children less than five years die every day of preventable and treatable conditions. Around 8000 women die annually during childbirth and pregnancy from treatable and preventable conditions.
The following are the top causes of deaths in children in Tanzania:
• Neonatal conditions
The neonatal period includes only the first 28 days of life but accounts for 40 per cent of all under 5 child deaths according to the data from World Health Organisation (WHO).
Among the various different neonatal conditions that can possibly occur, there are three, which according to WHO are the major contributors to the global burden of disease and includes premature birth, birth asphyxia and neonatal infections. WHO defines premature birth as all births before completing 37 weeks of gestation.
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can be caused by various micro-organisms including viruses, bacteria and fungi. Symptoms of this condition include cough, fever, chest pain and difficult breathing. WHO reports that worldwide, this condition was responsible for deaths of more than 920,000 children in 2015. The best ways to prevent pneumonia according is by immunization and ensuring adequate nutrition so the child can develop a strong immunity.
According to webmd.com, viruses are the most common cause of loose-watery stool in children. Diarrhoea is very dangerous particularly because it can easily lead to dehydration due to excessive fluid loss. UNICEF mentions that diarrhoea is the leading cause of death in children under 5 accounting for 1,400 child deaths a day or more than 520,000 child deaths a year globally.
Malaria, as we all very well know, is one of the deadliest diseases not only in Tanzania, but also on the African Continent. A 2015/16 Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey and Malaria Indicator Survey (TDHS-MIS) report shows the prevalance of malaria has increased in children under 5. The report attributes the drastic increase to decline in use of mosquito nets and lack of distribution of the nets to households.
The condition is an advanced level of infection with the HIV virus is affects millions of people worldwide. UNICEF mentions that around 99,000 HIV positive women give birth annually in Tanzania and around 160,000 children under 15 years are living with HIV. Around 2 million children have been orphaned due to the disease.
Local and international organisations are working tirelessly to ensure a significant reduction in the diseases that lead to the deaths of the future of our continent.