UN 518378 MackySall

Since I was elected president, we have been busy implementing important reforms for the people of Senegal. We have made tremendous progress in improving the democratic process, eliminating fraud and corruption and have worked with our African allies to improve accountability and transparency in investments and governance. Senegal, like many African countries, continues to benefit from these reforms as we grow economically, focus on building our infrastructure and continue to invest in health care for our people. However, many challenges—particularly in maternal and child health and nutrition—remain.

One of the most immediate concerns is our unacceptably high rates of child mortality. Each year roughly 34,000 children under five die in Senegal, which equals more than 90 children per day. Child mortality not only destroys families, it weakens future generations. The children we lose are our next generation of doctors, lawyers, social workers and political leaders. As we continue to grow and develop sustainable solutions to our health and development challenges, a focus on the health of children must be an integral part of any national strategy.

In Senegal, we believe that both a child and a mother’s health begins long before the baby is born. For this reason we have implemented programs to provide pre-natal care to pregnant women and strategies to provide them with medical attention if complications arise. Mother’s death increases the risk of child mortality. We know women die mainly due to bleeding, obstructed labor, anemia or complications of high blood pressure that can lead to renal disease.

To end these risks we have taken several initiatives such as free caesareans, iron administration to pregnant women through the community actors’ network, dialysis free and improvement of maternal health care facilities.

We have devoted resources to increase the number of medical professionals in our country but we know that we need to do more. We have also started a campaign to combat diseases that affect women and mothers such as renal disease. This strategy has included a program to increase the number and use of dialysis machines in our hospitals, and we are focused on improving education programs to decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies and pregnancies and deliveries that happen outside of the supervision of skilled birth attendants. We have also implemented a strong national family planning to increase the contraceptive prevalence rate from 12% to 27% by 2015.

In nutrition, we have worked with partners, including:

  1. the private sector on critical product modification through micronutrient fortification, with social marketing by the consumers’ association;
  2. civil society contributions to management of project implementation;
  3. and building of stakeholders’ technical capacity in nutrition, by the research and technical community, through operational research.


We have also reduced the mortality rate of children < 5 from 121/1,000 in 2005 to 72/1,000 in 2010.

The immunization program has shown evidence of its significant impact on the reduction of infant and child mortality. To save more children, new vaccines against pneumococcal disease and rotavirus will be introduced in the coming months successes in malaria control have also played an important role.

Despite challenges, efforts are paying off and we are continuing those programs. From 2000-2010, we witnessed a 31% reduction in under-five mortality and a 24% reduction in newborn mortality. This year, I have set up the Family Security Fund, which helps poor mothers provide vaccinations to their children so that they can keep them healthy and in school. Efforts to reduce malnutrition have been an integral part of our public health strategy.

In addition, the Government of Senegal, in partnership with local and international partners, launched the National Plan on Accelerated Child Survival which will help us save the lives of an additional 10,000 children under the age of five. This plan is part of the “A Promise Renewed“ process which engages international donors, civil society and governments to help guide the implementation of programs aimed at reducing child and maternal mortality in support of MDG goals 4 and 5. Among the goals established in the National Plan, we hope to reduce maternal mortality from to 332 deaths for every 100,000 live births (down from 392) by 2015, reduce neonatal mortality from 29 to 20 deaths for every 1,000 births, and cut infant and child mortality from 72 to 42 deaths for every 1,000 live births.

A Promise Renewed is a unique partnership that Senegal is fortunate to be a part of. Together with our partners—USAID and UNICEF—we are mobilizing our resources to scale up proven child and maternal health interventions. The partnership mirrors our own national strategy by holistically addressing the causes of maternal and child mortality. This includes focusing on increasing the demand for maternal and child health services through education and awareness programs to partnerships with various medical organizations to provide proven and effective healthcare interventions to all areas of the country. The implementation of the National Plan combined with our participation as a “focus country” in A Promise Renewed, will allow the government of Senegal to work with all partners in a collaborative and coordinated manner to help fill in the gaps in health service delivery that contribute to high child mortality.

As part of our strategy to decrease preventable child deaths, we are also a focus country of the U.N. Commission on Life-Saving Commodities. This partnership helps address a key cause of child mortality—a lack of access to affordable, life saving treatments and commodities. Working with the UN, we have expanded upon the 13 commodities recommended by the WHO to include four additional commodities that reflect the specific needs in Senegal. Together, these commodities will help us achieve a continuum of care that provides health interventions beginning with the planning of a pregnancy and following through all the way to the health of the child after birth.

Finally, we have realized the importance of nutrition in reducing child mortality. Undernourished children have weaker immune systems and are more likely to both develop and die from common diseases and infection. Nutrition is not only a significant health issue, but also critical for developmental and economic outcomes. Stunted children are less able to learn due to compromised brain and mental development, leading to more limited opportunities for the individual and poorer economic prospects for Senegal.

Malnutrition is still a significant problem in Senegal as 16% of our children under five are stunted, 9% are wasted, and 16% are born with low birth weight. We are strongly committed to addressing undernutrition, with the nutrition convening body, the Fight Against Malnutrition Unit (CLM) located at the level of the Prime Minister. Senegal is member of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement and has endorsed the Nutrition for Growth Compact, committing by 2020 to reducing stunting and wasting to less than 10% and 5% respectively and addressing micronutrient deficiencies. In order to achieve these targets, we will increase our coverage of community‐based nutrition services, strengthen multi-sectoral interventions for nutrition and implement effective coordination of the multi-sectoral approaches.

Partnering with WFP, UNICEF, Feed the Future and other international programs we have developed a nutrition strategy for the next five years that includes a community nutrition plan to cover at least 65% of our children under five; programs to increase fortification and salt iodization; social transfers to combat food price increases and a strategy to reduce hunger in many of our provinces.

The nation of Senegal is one of the most stable in sub-Saharan Africa. For decades we have avoided the conflicts and violence that have plagued so many of our neighbors. As corruption became a problem, the government instituted significant reforms and strategies, to ensure investors that Senegal remained committed to transparency as well as accountability, and was open for business. We have demonstrated that as a nation, we can work with our international partners to overcome challenges and create a brighter future for our children. Now is the time to redouble our efforts around child health and nutrition and ensure that we leave the next generation a Senegal that is stronger, more democratic and a place where all Senegalese children can expect to live past the age of five and realize their full potential as adults.