In a country with only 68 paediatricians for over 12 million children, where over 90% of children never see a paediatrician, the question of children’s health is ever more pressing. The Second National Paediatric Congress of Mozambique, which took place from 25 to 28 October in the Mozambican capital Maputo, was therefore an important contribution to the national debate, which CUAMM was determined not to miss.
The event, organised by AMOPE (Associação Moçambicana de Pediatras – Mozambican Association of Paediatricians) under the heading “Our Priority is the Health of Children and Young People”, was opened by Nazira Abdula, Mozambique’s Minister of Health. CUAMM was represented by Olga Denysyuk, a neonatologist working at Beira Hospital.
It offered an opportunity to discuss integrated care as a means of controlling the main diseases causing ill health and death in Mozambique’s children. To date, premature birth, asphyxia and infections have been the main causes of death in newborns, while HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB, malnutrition, respiratory disease and diarrhoea continue to affect very young children. While there are signs of progress, there is still much to do, as Valéria Chicamba, Director of the National Paediatric Programme, explained:
The country’s infant mortality rate has fallen from 178 deaths per thousand births in 1998 to the current level of 64 per thousand, but there is a long way to go, given the number of paediatricians available to care for our children. We have 0.6 paediatricians for every 100,000 children aged under 15, a very small number for our needs and very few in comparison to the rest of the world.
CUAMM is playing its part in guaranteeing health care for Mozambican children: we are improving the facilities at Beira Central Hospital’s Neonatology Department and enlarging the “kangaroo mother” therapy unit for premature babies, as well as providing equipment and on-the-job training for local staff.
Thirteen foreign paediatricians have been brought in to strengthen the 68-strong Mozambican team, bringing the total to 81. Moreover, there is a significant geographical imbalance, with 58 of these specialists concentrated in the capital Maputo, leaving just 23 paediatricians working in the remaining 10 Provinces. This hampers the struggle to reduce infant mortality, which now stands at a rate of 64 deaths for every 1,000 live births.