CAIRO: Health services for expectant mothers and their babies in four of Upper Egypt’s governorates are to receive a major boost thanks to a grant of nearly two million dollars from the Japanese government to the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF.
The funds were formally delivered at a signing ceremony in Cairo on Tuesday presided over by Minister of Health and Population, Dr Hatem El Gebali.
A total of four million children aged five and under are expected to benefit from UNICEF’s maternal and child health program, which envisages the creation and equipping of four MoHP prenatal and neonatal centers in Qena, Sohag, Assiut and Minya. As well as offering a full range of services for pregnant women and nursing mothers, the centers will provide training and certification for health staff working in the region.
“This represents a major step towards ensuring that the women of Upper Egypt benefit from professional health care both in childbirth and in the critical first year of their babies’ lives, said UNICEF Egypt Representative, Dr Erma Manoncourt. Currently, some 50 per cent of all deaths among children aged five and under occur during the first month of life.
Dr Manoncourt said that the Japanese government’s contribution would be a significant boost to Egypt’s efforts to achieve two of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals – reducing child mortality by two-thirds and maternal mortality by three-quarters — by the target date of 2015.
Japan’s ambassador, Mr Kunihiko Makita, pointed out that the grant followed previous collaboration between his government, MoHP and UNICEF in the immunization campaign which led to Egypt’s being declared polio-free in February 2006.
“Although Egypt’s health indicators have been improving, more attention needs to be paid to Upper Egypt, where health services are lagging behind, said Ambassador Makita.
The Japanese funding will also contribute towards the implementation of a strategy to offer facility- and home-based care for children in both health and illness. Introduced to Egypt in 1997 by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) is being expanded to eventually cover all primary health care units.