Challenges in reducing maternal and newborn mortality at centre of televised discussion of UNICEF flagship report
Vientiane, 10 March 2009 – Strategies to improve standards of maternal and newborn health in one of South East Asia’s poorest countries were the focus of the national launch in Lao PDR last week of UNICEF’s 2009 State of the World’s Children.
The discussion – hosted by the Lao Women’s Union as part of International Women’s Day celebrations – took the form of a televised discussion that brought together senior government officials, health experts, community representatives and leading international organizations.
Chaired by the Vice President of the LWU, Mrs Bandith Pathoumvan, the discussion covered a range of topics, including the work of provincial health services and Save the Children Australia in the province of Sayaboury where – according to the State of the World’s Children 2009 -- maternal mortality rates were reduced by nearly half between 1998 and 2003.
UNICEF representative Laila Ismail Khan pointed out that the report emphasized a multi-disciplinary approach. “In order to prevent maternal and neonatal deaths, we need to provide not just adequate pre- and post-natal care, but also enhanced nutrition, safe water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as a supportive social environment in which women’s rights are respected.”
A key recommendation from the report is provision of essential services through health systems that integrate home, community, outreach and facility-based care.
In Laos, the Ministry of Health together with the Centre for Maternal and Child Health is following this approach through the development of a package of maternal, newborn and child health care. This combines family planning; pregnancy, delivery and newborn care; breastfeeding and complementary feeding; immunization of children and mothers; integrated care for sick children; micronutrient supplementation; and use of insecticide-treated bed-nets and de-worming.
An edited version of the SOWC launch discussion is to be broadcast on the popular Lao Star Television channel.