The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) yesterday signed a NZ$7 million agreement to support the prevention and reduction of newborn mortality in Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Kiribati.
The ceremony was attended by Vanuatu's High Commissioner in Fiji, Mr Nikenike Vurobaravu, High Commissioner of the Solomon Islands in Fiji Mr. John Patteson Oti, and Acting Head of Mission of the Republic of Kiribati, Mr David Teaabo, with partners committing to support health interventions in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life to help prevent and reduce newborn mortality and create conditions in which children can thrive.
“We welcome this partnership with MFAT to help realize the rights of children in the Pacific and to ensure every child has access to quality health care and nutrition. The Government of New Zealand has shown admirable leadership in prioritising support for the health and wellbeing of children,” said Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Pacific Representative.
With the support provided by MFAT, UNICEF will work together with the Governments of Kiribati, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to improve child health policies, provide better early health services such as newborn care, immunisation and nutrition and stronger health promotion at a community level to increase awareness of, and improve practices that pose risks to child health.
New Zealand's High Commissioner to Fiji, Mr Jonathan Curr, at the ceremony, said that tackling the impacts of child poverty is a priority for the New Zealand Government at home. The partnership with UNICEF is an example of expanding that commitment into the Pacific, by promoting some of the fundamental elements of child health – nutrition, immunization and community support.
Nearly 1,700 children under five years of age died in the Pacific in 2016. More than 80 per cent of those children died within their first year of life and half of those children died in their first 28 days. One cause for concern is childhood stunting, or shortness for age.
In addition to supporting targeted interventions in Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Kiribati, the “First 1000 days” partnership will support a more expansive intervention in child immunisation across eleven Pacific Island countries, including Fiji, helping to improve child health outcomes throughout the region.