ARTHUR MWANSA, Lusaka
WORLD Health Organisation (WHO) regional director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti has called on all countries and partners to sustain and strengthen solidarity towards the fight against childhood hearing loss in the African region.
Dr Moeti says hearing loss is a barrier to education and social integration, adding that in low-resource settings in which a child would already be at risk of injury, hearing loss can also represent an additional and crucial element of vulnerability.
â€œClear interventions are available to reduce childhood hearing loss, prevention is crucial through strengthened immunisation programmes, improvement of dissemination of good hygiene practices, provision of stronger maternal and child health services including advocatingÂ Â for the reduction in the use of ototoxic medicines in expectant mothers and new-borns,â€ Dr Moeti said.
He said this in a statement issued by WHO country health information and promotion officer Nora Mweemba to commemorate the World Hearing DayÂ which falls on March 3 every year.
The World Hearing Day is meant to raise awareness about the need to prevent and control hearing loss, particularly among children. This yearsâ€™ theme is: â€œChildhood hearing loss: act now; here is how!â€
Dr Moeti said in a broader context, untreated hearing loss can affect the social and economic development of entire communities and countries.
WHO also estimates that 75 percent of hearing loss in children under15 years of age in low- and middle-income countries is preventable.
Dr Moeti said over 30 percent of childhood hearing loss is caused by diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, meningitis and ear infections.
He said another 17 percent of childhood hearing loss results from complications at birth, including prematurity, low birth weight, birth asphyxia and neonatal jaundice.
Dr Moeti said in affected children, early detection through screening programmes for hearing and the availability of timely and appropriate interventions as well as the provision of rehabilitation services can dramatically minimise the adverse impact of the disability and facilitate a normal education and social development.
He said crucial achievements are possible in this area through recognition and visibility of the problem, shared responsibility and solidarity of African governments and partners, provision of accessible services to people in need.
ARTHUR MWANSA, Lusaka