New Vaccine will Combat Infant Mortality in Kenya



By Michael Onyiego

Nairobi, Feb 14 - A coalition of non-governmental organizations has partnered with the Kenyan government to tackle the leading cause of infant mortality in the east African Nation.

As Kenya strives to meet the Millennium Development Goals, one of the largest battles facing the east African nation is infant mortality. According to the United Nations Children's Fund, Kenya ranked 21st worldwide in infant mortality for 2008, with 128 deaths for every 1,000 children under five - nearly double the worldwide average, 65.

But on Monday Kenya, with help from a coalition of international NGO's, has introduced free access to a new vaccine that will help target the leading cause of infant death in Kenya - pneumonia. Most children’s health initiatives target more publicized killers, such as AIDS, malaria and measles. But, as Kenyan Director of Public Health and Sanitation Shahnaz Kassam Sharif explains, pneumonia is actually responsible for more deaths in children under five than all three combined.

"Pneumococcal disease is responsible for around 30,000 deaths in a year in children under five in Kenya," said Sharif. "Most of those deaths occur in children less than two years of age. In fact, a majority of them occur in children less than one. It is the leading contributor to infant mortality rate in Kenya."

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(Photo by Reuters)

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