Maputo — The Mozambican Health Ministry hopes to reach 3.8 million children in the second phase of this year's "National Health Week", which will run from 14 to 18 November.
According to the Deputy National Director of Public Health, Leonardo Chavana, speaking at a Maputo press conference on Friday, some 25,000 health workers, divided into teams of five, will be involved, covering the entire country. Their top target is to administer Vitamin A supplements to 85 per cent of all children aged between six and 59 months.
Vitamin A deficiency can cause blindness, and reduces the body's capacity to fight infections. The World Health Organisation warns that Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of blindness among children.
All the children who receive Vitamin A supplements will also undergo nutritional sorting to check whether they are at risk of stunting (chronic malnutrition).
The health brigades also aim to administer the drug mebendazole, to treat infestation by worms, to 85 per cent of children aged between 12 and 59 months.
"These interventions will be undertaken in health units throughout the country, and also be mobile brigades that will travel into the communities", said Chavana. The campaign should reduce still further Mozambique's infant mortality rate. The percentage of Mozambican children who die before their first birthday has been falling steadily over the past decade. According to figures published by the National Statistics Institute (INE), the infant mortality rate fell from 135 per 100,000 live births in 1997 to 101 in 2003, and continued falling to reach 93 in 2008.
Next week, Chavana added, the Health Ministry will also offer family planning advice and methods to women of child bearing age. The target is particularly teenage girls.
Despite the repeated calls on young people and adolescents to delay their first sexual relationship, the number of teenage pregnancies has continued to grow. Chavana said that a frequent response from these reluctant young mothers was "that they don't know the methods that can help them prevent pregnancies".