Launch of the Campaign on Mother and Child Health
Your Excellency Minister Kushkyan, Mr. Babloyan, Mr. Hakobyan, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, media representatives,
UNICEF knows what it takes to ensure the survival and health of children and women. Safeguarding the health of children and their mothers is central to UNICEF’s mission and is one of the core components of the Millennium Development Goals.
In recent years Armenia has been showing steady progress in economic growth which has resulted in increased investments in all social sectors, including health. However, there is much more to be done.
According to The State of the World’s Children released in 2009, roughly 22 infants per 1,000 live births die before their first birthday. Approximately 65% 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.
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.
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.
Meeting the health related MDGs requires improvements in healthcare infrastructure and delivery. 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, it is important that essential services be provided through health systems that integrate a continuum of home, community, outreach and facility-based care.
This continuum of care concept will ensure an integrated approach to maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition issues and will do away with 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 already significantly improve the situation and save lives of newborns and their mothers.
I would like to once again thank organizers of the forum for this opportunity to once again highlight the importance of the issue and present what has been done by UNICEF in this area to date. I wish participants of the forum productive discussions and hope that the forum will help renew our efforts towards the achievement of MDGs 4 and 5.