SOWC report 2009 launched in Ankara, Turkey
ANKARA, Turkey - 15 January 2009
UNICEF’s flagship annual report, ‘The State of the World’s Children’ was unveiled by UNICEF Turkey Representative Reza Hossaini in Ankara on Thursday January 15 as part of its worldwide launch.
The event was attended by Minister of Health Professor Recep Akdağ, members of Parliament, public officials, academics, civil society representatives, UNICEF staff and journalists. Among those who sent messages were Speaker of Parliament Köksal Toptan, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and four government ministers including Minister of State responsible for Women and the Family Nimet Çubukçu and Minister of National Education Hüseyin Çelik.
The 2009 edition of the UNICEF report focuses on maternal and new-born health. It indicates that more than 500,000 women worldwide die each year of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, while 3.7 million children die within 28 days of birth. But it shows that Turkey is one of the six countries which have reduced their under-five mortality rates most rapidly in the past two decades.
In his opening remarks, UNICEF Representative Hossaini congratulated the Government and people of Turkey on their success in reducing maternal and young child mortality rates. He later presented a plaque to Health Minister Professor Akdağ “as a token of appreciation for the great work which you and your team are doing”.
“Unfortunately, lots of children and women around the world, confronted with war or with the cycle of poverty and disease, do not have the same opportunities and privileges as in Turkey,” Mr Hossaini went on.
This year’s report concentrates on maternal and new-born health because these two indicators are closely inter-linked: “The health of mothers and new-borns is intricately related,” says the report, “so preventing deaths requires, in many cases, implementing the same interventions.”
The UNICEF report also brings the new-born issue out of the shadows. Globally, almost 40% of under-five deaths occur within the first four weeks, and many countries have been making little headway in preventing these early deaths. The prevention of mother and young child mortalities is not just an issue for health authorities. “The focus of the report is on the whole continuum of health,” Mr Hossaini explained, “We cannot have healthy deliveries if the mother is under-nourished, or if girls marry and start giving birth at an early stage, or if the knowledge of adolescents is not increased.”
Health Minister Professor Akdağ attributed the improvement in child and maternal mortality in Turkey to a range of preventative health programmes pursued “very actively and in a spirit of integration.”
“We haven’t spent a lot of time on pilot projects… Attaching special importance to mother and infant health constitutes a basic element of our Health Transformation Programme,” the Minister noted. Turkey has allocated increased financial, human and physical resources for mother and child care, particularly in underdeveloped regions and rural areas, resulting not only in fewer deaths among mothers and infants, but also in a marked decline in regional disparities. Dr. Akdağ expressed confidence that the under-five mortality rate would fall into single figures within 5-10 years’ time.
“From now on we must focus on preventing neonatal deaths, especially in the case of premature births,” the Minister declared. He added that his Ministry had set a target of no more than 250 maternal deaths in Turkey in 2009, and no more than 200 in 2010.
Status of women
The audience was also addressed by three members of parliament. Professor Gaye Erbatur stressed the need for an improvement in the status of women, including an end to violence against them, and for a change of mindset regarding gender roles, if mother and child mortality was to be reduced further. “It is vital for the next generation that mothers should be educated,” agreed Professor Erdöl, who is head of the Health, Family, Labour and Social Affairs Committee. Mr Nevzat Korkmaz underlined the importance of coordination, monitoring, exchange of information, accountability and political responsibility.
The launch of the annual UNICEF report took place against the backdrop of a rising death toll among women and children due to the military conflict in Gaza. All the speakers in Ankara condemned the loss of life, the targeting of schools, the lack of a ceasefıre and the obstacles to humanitarian aid.