Health

UNICEF launches flagship report on maternal and newborn health

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© UNICEF South Africa/2009/ Hearfield
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman at the launch of ‘The State of the World’s Children 2009’ in Johannesburg, South Africa.

By Elizabeth Kiem

NEW YORK, USA, 15 January 2009 – UNICEF’s flagship publication, ‘The State of the World’s Children 2009’ – launched today in South Africa – addresses maternal mortality, one of the most intractable problems for development work.

The report calls attention to the fact that 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.

“Every year, more than half a million women die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth complications, including about 70,000 girls and young women aged 15 to 19,” UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said at the Johannesburg launch. “Since 1990, complications related to pregnancy and childbirth have killed an estimated 10 million women.”

The health of these mothers is inextricably linked to the health of their babies, the new report points out. 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.

Greatest health divide
‘The State of the World’s Children’ also highlights the difference in pregnancy risk between women in developing countries and their peers in the industrialized nations – a gap often termed the greatest health divide in the world.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF South Africa/2009/ Hearfield
South African Health Minister Barbara Hogan speaks about the role of education in saving the lives of mothers and newborns.

The 10 countries with the highest lifetime risk of maternal death are Niger, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Chad, Angola, Liberia, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea-Bissau and Mali. A woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death in these countries ranges from 1 in 7 in Niger to 1 in 15 in Mali.

That’s in stark contrast to the risk for mothers in the United States, where it’s 1 in 4,800, or in Ireland, where it’s just 1 in 48,000.

Education saves lives
South African Health Minister Barbara Hogan joined Veneman, citing the impact of education and women’s social status on maternal and newborn health – especially in the case of younger mothers.

“If young girls are not in school, they are more vulnerable. It's not just a health issue. It is about the status of young women and girls,” she said.

“Saving the lives of mothers and their newborns requires more than just medical intervention,” added Veneman. “Educating girls is pivotal to improving maternal and neonatal health, and also benefits families and societies.”

Veneman also commented on the ongoing crisis in the Gaza Strip, stressing its negative impact on the availability of essential health care for pregnant women and newborn children.


 

 

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15 January 2009: UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman speaks at the launch of ‘The State of the World’s Children 2009’ in South Africa.
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UNICEF correspondent Elizabeth Kiem reports on the need to invest in maternal and newborn health.
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