The United Nations International Children Emergency Fund has raised concerns over high infant mortality, under-age marriage, children’s malnutrition, among others, in Bayelsa State.
The UNICEF Chief of Field Services, Dr. Annefrida Kisesa-Mkusa, on Saturday, during the policy dialogue with state executive and legislature on ‘Investment in maternal nutrition and infant and young child feeding’ in Yenagoa, called on the relevant authorities in the state to tackle the problems ravaging children in the state.
According to Kisesa-Mkusa, recent data from the 2016/2017 publication of the National Bureau of Statistics, the infant mortality in the state was still very high, noting that for every 1,000 babies born, almost 100 die before the age of five years.
She also said that over 10 per cent of female children in the state were married off before the age of 15.
“Available evidence shows that getting the right nutrients at the right time is critical, particularly during the first 1,000 days of life starting from conception to the child’s second birthday.
“Unfortunately, during the last decade, Bayelsa State has made little progress in improving the nutrition status of children and women as well as in other key child survival indicators.
“Three in 10 women deliver their babies at home and are not delivering their babies with assistance of skilled personnel. Bayelsa State has stagnated at this rate since 2007.
“One in five (18 per cent) of girls of between 15 and 19 years have begun child bearing. Three in 10 (29 per cent) babies born in Bayelsa State face the high risk of dying in their first month of life (27-28 days of birth).
“Infant mortality (probability of dying between birth and the first birthday) reduced from 102/1,000 in 2011 to 57/1,000 in 2016/2017, but it is still unacceptably high.
“Under 5 mortality in Bayelsa has been reduced from 178/1,000 to 95/1,000 live but this means that for every 1,000 babies born, almost 100 die before the age of five years. The average for the South-South region is 59. Bayelsa still carries the highest burden for this indicator,” Kisesa-Mkusa said.
The UNICEF boss added that seven in every 10 children of between 12 and 23 months had not received all the vaccinations recommended in the national schedule by second birthday including polio and measles.