Health care givers and partners of Hellen Keller met yesterday at the GGEM Hall in Freetown to plan for their 2008 activities.
The Country Directorof Hellen Keller in Sierra Leone and The Guinea, Jennifer Peterson said they would be looking at the results of 2007 and planning their major activities for 2008 as well as promoting partnership and teambuilding.
“Saving the sight and lives of the most vulnerable has been Hellen Keller’s focus over the years”, the Country Director said, adding that the fundamental values of the institution were their human rights and social justice, as well as their push for personal integrity and public responsibility.
Jennifer said her organization is one that is child-focused and gender-sensitive.
“We are operating in 13 countries in the world including America, Mexico and Latin America,” she said, adding that they have as their main goals the reduction of morbidity caused by malnutrition and blindness.
The organisation’s programme officer, Marian B. Bangura said one in six children die in their first year and one in four before their fifth birthday. She said nearly half of the deaths among children were attributable to malnutrition. She said that vitamin A deficiency affects roughly 40% of children under five years in Sierra Leone Another grim statistic was that a quarter of pregnant women are iodine deficient and that 250,000 infants born in the next five years will suffer from different levels of mental retardation in the absence of adequate policy and programme action to control iodine deficiency in pregnant women. The Programme Officer highlighted that 86% of pregnant women are anaemic and therefore at an increased risk of maternity-related complications.
Mrs Bangura plans to develop nutrition school health activities and will give support to the development of nutrition policies and strategies as needed.