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article imageReport: African children survive better without UN assistance

By Andrew Moran     Jan 13, 2010 in World
The United Nations has spent more than $27 million in delivering vitamin A pills, vaccinations and bednets to children in West Africa but research has found that they often survive better without the assistance of the UN.
New research found has shown that the United Nations spent $27 million between 2001 and 2005 for children in western Africa to deliver vaccinations, vitamin A pills and bed nets but children often survived much better without aid from Unicef, according to The Canadian Press. UN involvement was found in eleven countries but researchers studied three countries: Ghana, Mali and Benin.
The study showed that deaths of children fell by 13 per cent in areas of Benin but in parts not targeted by the UN program; the deaths declined nearly 25 per cent. Similar results were shown in Mali as death rates went down 31 per cent in areas not having UN assistance.
However, Unicef said their initiative succeeded in raising the standards of care across whole nations and not just in targeted areas. Head of the study for the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Jennifer Bryce, told the BBC that there were too many missed opportunities to save the lives of children and that a lot of lives could have been saved if there was a trained aid worker to provide proper treatment of pneumonia or malaria.
“But instead what we found was there were few gains [in the areas covered by Unicef] for providing treatment for these diseases - and some losses.”
Mickey Chopra of the UN agency also told the BBC that the results are completely misinterpreted, “The programme always was about encouraging governments... to put these interventions in place all over the country. And we showed that coverage of things like vaccinations, vitamin A pills and bed nets did increase all over the countries after the programme had started. So the fact that we succeeded in increasing coverage of these interventions across the whole country - which in turn meant that the whole country showed improvement - is a success of the programme not a failure.”
The Associated Press notes that many experts believe that before Unicef hands over large amounts of money that they need to first strengthen the infrastructure of many of the developing poor countries in the region. Philip Stevens, a member of the London Think Tank International Policy Network, believes the UN was “blindly optimistic” and that Unicef should have made the grant money dependent on positive results, “It's hardly surprising the program was a complete flop.”
The UN’s goal was to decrease death rates by 25 per cent.
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