UNICEF marks International Women’s Day by stressing importance of investing in maternal health
NEW YORK, 7 March 2008 – UNICEF is marking International Women’s Day 2008 (8 March) by drawing attention to the need for improvements in maternal health care.
Better access to maternal health care will reduce the estimated half a million pregnancy related deaths that occur each year and also help reduce child mortality rates.
“Evidence from the World Health Organisation shows that a motherless child is more likely to die before the age of two than an infant whose mother survives,” said Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF. “Improvements in the health of pregnant women and new mothers are critical to ensuring children survive their first years.”
The causes of maternal death vary markedly across regions and countries, but maternal mortality is far higher in the developing world than in developed countries. While a number of middle-income countries have made progress in reducing maternal deaths, less progress has been achieved in low-income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. In West and Central Africa, on average the risk that a woman will die in childbirth is 1 in 17, compared with 1 in 8,000 in developed countries.
It is estimated that one in four pregnant women currently receives no antenatal care, and that more than 40 percent give birth without the assistance of a skilled attendant.
“Access to pre- and antenatal care must be improved, as part of integrated efforts to establish stronger national health systems,” Veneman said. “Investing in maternal health care is crucial for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.”
The impact of the absence of adequate pre- and neo-natal care is compounded by other issues women and girls face, such as rape, violence and child marriage.
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