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Turkey encouraged by UNICEF report on maternal and newborn health

© UNICEF/2009/Ustun
UNICEF Representative in Turkey Reza Hossaini launches ‘The State of the World's Children 2009’ in Ankara.

ANKARA, Turkey, 19 January 2009 – UNICEF’s flagship publication, ‘The State of the World’s Children 2009’, received a warm welcome in Turkey, where it was recently unveiled by UNICEF Representative Reza Hossaini.

This year’s report concentrates on the closely linked issues of maternal and newborn health. Over the last two decades, Turkey has achieved rapid reductions in its under-five and maternal mortality rates.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Hossaini congratulated the government and people of Turkey on their success.

“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,” he said.

Integrated programmes are working

The Ankara leg of the report’s worldwide launch was also attended by Minister of Health 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.

Health Minister Akdağ attributed the improvement in child and maternal mortality in Turkey to a range of preventive health programmes pursued “very actively and in a spirit of integration.”

Mother and child care

Turkey has allocated increased financial, human and physical resources for mother and child care, particularly in underdeveloped regions and rural areas. As a result, there have been fewer deaths among mothers and infants.

Dr. Akdağ expressed confidence that the under-five mortality rate – 23 deaths for every 1,000 live births in 2007 – would fall to single digits within 5 to 10 years.

“From now on, we must focus on preventing neonatal deaths, especially in the case of premature births,” he said, adding 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.

Improving the status of women

Three members of the Turkish Parliament also commented on UNICEF’s report; they all agreed that the prevention of maternal and child mortality cannot be left solely to the health authorities.

To that end, Professor Gaye Erbatur – head of the Health, Family, Labour and Social Affairs Committee – stressed the need for improving the status of women, including ending violence against them and changing mindsets regarding gender roles.

“It is vital, for the next generation, that mothers be educated,” Prof. Erdöl added.



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