UNICEF, Health Ministry launch State of World’s Children 2009
as government builds up efforts to reduce maternal, newborn deaths
By Ali Verdiyev
Baku, 27 January 2009: UNICEF and the Azerbaijani Ministry of Health have held a joint news conference in Baku to launch UNICEF’s global publication – the State of the World’s Children report for 2009 amid the government’s intensified efforts to reduce maternal and newborn deaths in a country which announced 2009 the year of the child.
With journalists from the broadcast and print media in attendance during the news conference on 27 January 2009, UNICEF acting representative in Azerbaijan Mr. Mohamed Bendriss Alami and Deputy Minister of Health Prof. Sanan Karimov launched the report and lauded joint efforts in reducing maternal and infant mortality rates in Azerbaijan in recent years.
“The State of the World’s Children report is important for Azerbaijan, a country which has been making conscious efforts to improve maternal and newborn health,” said Mr. Alami in his address to the media.
It is remarkable that UNICEF and the government have come together in Azerbaijan to launch the global publication in an environment of strong cooperation and partnership.
The State of the World’s Children report says that while many developing countries have made excellent progress improving their child survival rate by 27% in recent 15 years, there has been less headway in reducing maternal mortality. Approximately 99 percent of global deaths arising from pregnancy and complications occur in the developing world, where having a child remains among the most serious health risks for women.
“The health of mothers and children is integrated and should be treated as such. A mother having good health means a child being healthy,” Prof. Sanan Karimov said, praising good cooperation between the Azerbaijani government and UNICEF in improving the health of mothers and children throughout the country.
UNICEF provides technical assistance to the Ministry of Health in developing a comprehensive concept on reforming its perinatal care system by offering support for modelling new practices and training healthcare staff on neonatal resuscitation and essential newborn care. The Azerbaijani government is expected to establish seven perinatal centres across the country, one of which was opened in the second biggest town of Ganja in northwest Azerbaijan last year. The centres are believed to improve the situation of mothers and newborns.
UNICEF’s assistance to the Azerbaijani government also focuses on helping the ministry move from the Soviet-era live birth definition to the WHO’s live birth definition, while achieving the elimination of IDDs and fighting HIV/AIDS.
The news conference also aimed to raise awareness on the situation of children and women, create debate on the existing health situation, inform about national progress on maternal and newborn health and increase partnership among all actors to improve maternal and newborn health in Azerbaijan.
Having the fastest growing economy in the world, the Azerbaijani government has been gearing efforts in recent years to reconstruct and update healthcare facilities, using mostly oil money from the budget. Now the priority seems to be moving towards training human resources to manage those facilities. But it will probably take something more to ensure that more mothers and babies survive.
“Saving the lives of mothers and their newborns requires more than just medical interventions. It requires an environment that empowers women and respects their rights”, Mr. Alami said, calling for better conditions for women to realize themselves.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.