6 Oct 2009

Fiji children die as mothers fail to attend clinics in first trimester

2:40 pm on 6 October 2009

Fiji's national advisor for family health says almost 400 children under the age of five are dying from preventable or curable diseases in Fiji every year.

The Fiji Times reports Dr Josaia Samuela as saying the deaths are directly linked to the failure of mothers to attend antenatal clinics during their first trimester.

He says this means conditions are developing which could have been prevented if picked up earlier.

Dr Samuela says an emerging issue, which has the potential to become a major public health problem, is sexually-transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS, syphilis and gonorrhoea.

Last year, there were 259 reported cases of syphilis in children aged under one.

Dr Samuela says medical staff are providing free anti-retroviral treatment for HIV-positive children and pregnant women who have undergone antenatal screening in the clinics.

He says the ministry has immunisation programs in place against nine diseases -- tuberculosis, hepatitis B, diphtheria, pertusis (whooping cough), tetanus, measles, rubella, poliomyelitis and haemophilus influenza B.

He says while more than 100 children in Fiji contracted measles in 2006, plans are now on track to eliminate measles.