19 November 2020
The Ministry of Public Health has announced the launch of Project AVENR. AVENIR aims to reduce mortality and morbidity in children under five in Niger through mass drug administration of azithromycin every six months.
Led by the Resilience through Azithromycin for Children (REACH) research program, the mass administration of Azithromycin (AZT) helps prevent diseases such as pneumonia, sinus infections and Lyme disease.
Five of Niger’s eight regions will be targeted to receive full treatment.
The campaign begins today in Dosso and will be next introduced in the regions of Tahoua, Maradi, Zinder and Tillaberi.
The project is supported by the Ministry of Public Health of Niger, the Center for Public Health Research and Intervention (CRISP), the Francis I. Proctor Foundation of the University of California, San Francisco, and the strategic communications and advocacy agency Speak Up Africa.
The launch of REACH follows the MORDOR trial, a recent study that reported a 14% reduction in deaths among children under five who received doses of Azithromycin in Niger, Tanzania and Malawi.
Mr. Assoumana Amadou, Secretary General of the city of Dosso, highlights: « Enabling young children to reach their full development potential is a human right and an essential condition for sustainable development. As the world grapples with COVID-19, we must ensure that young children are not forgotten and have the best possible chance to live long and healthy lives. The AVENIR project is an important step in the pursuit of our mission to reduce child mortality throughout Niger. »
Between 2000 and 2018, Africa’s under-five mortality rate declined from 76 per 1,000 live births to 39, and the neonatal mortality rate declined from 31 per 1,000 live births to 18. This is an estimated 5.3 million under-five deaths and 2.5 million neonatal deaths prevented in 2018.
While infant mortality has declined in Niger over the past two decades, the country still has one of the highest under-five mortality rates in the world, with about 108 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Dr Elh Ibrahim Tassiou, Regional Public Health Minister of Dosso, adds: « Too many young children still die before their fifth birthday from diseases such as pneumonia, sinuses or chest infections. That is simply unacceptable. It is essential that young children receive these life-saving antibiotics, and I encourage local authorities to support the deployment of AVENIR, and for parents across Niger to ensure that their children receive this medicine. »
Ahmed M Arzika, Coordinator of the PhD Epidemiology study, concludes: « With so many issues at stake, it is essential that everyone involved – from the leadership of countries, local stakeholders and communities – supports AVENIR to achieve the best possible health outcomes for Nigerian children. We urge parents across Niger to ensure that their young children receive this treatment. »