2009-02-02 | News
UNICEF Calls to Improve Services to Prevent Maternal and Infant Deaths

Women in the world’s least developed countries are 300 times more likely to die in childbirth or from pregnancy-related complications than women in developed countries, according to UNICEF’s latest State of the World’s Children report, released here today.

At the same time, a child born in a developing country is almost 14 times more likely to die during the first month of life than a child born in a developed one.

The health and survival of mothers and their newborns are linked, and many of the interventions that save new mothers’ lives also benefit their infants. The 2009 edition of UNICEF’s flagship publication, The State of the World’s Children, highlights the link between maternal and neonatal survival, and suggests opportunities to close the gap between rich and poor countries.

“According to The State of the World’s Children 2009, in Armenia,  roughly 22 infants  per 1,000 live births die before their first birthday.  Approximately 80% of these deaths are during the first 28 days of life – the neonatal period. Most of these deaths could have been prevented, had timely and proper neonatal care and treatment services been provided to those children, “ UNICEF Representative in Armenia Laylee Moshiri stressed during the public launch of  The State of the World’s Children 2009. 

Surveys and studies carried out in recent years by UNICEF and other international organisations show that infant mortality rates in Armenia are nearly three times higher in the poorest households than in the wealthiest households.

The situation with regards to maternal mortality in Armenia also raises concerns, according to the UNICEF Report. Women in Armenia are 9 times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth complications than women in developed countries.  In particular, a woman in Armenia has a 1 in 980 lifetime risk of maternal death, compared with a probability of 1 in 8,000 for women in developed countries and the average of 1 in 1,300 in the region of Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Among factors contributing to the problem in Armenia are poor antenatal and neonatal care, lack of qualified staff and lack of basic equipment. ”Pregnancy and childbirth complications which account for the majority of maternal deaths are due to lack of quality services, accessibility of those services for women and also low awareness among women of the importance of antenatal visits,” Ms. Moshiri said, adding that with the existing level and trends in newborn and maternal mortality, Armenia will hardly be able to achieve the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 which call for two thirds reduction of child mortality and three quarters reduction in maternal mortality ratio by 2015.  

To lower maternal and infant mortality, the report recommends essential services be provided through health systems that integrate a continuum of home, community, outreach and facility-based care.

This continuum of care concept calls for an integrated approach to maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition issues instead of the traditional emphasis on single, disease-specific interventions.

“Interventions need not be expensive. Better routine maternal and newborn care, including the promotion of  breast feeding and the provision of basic equipment will help,” UNICEF Representative said, indicating that currently UNICEF supports the Ministry of Health to develop a National Strategy on Neonatal Care that will address all gaps existing in the system, including setting standards of care, professional development and quality control mechanisms.

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