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Improving care for mothers and newborns in Uzbekistan

© UNICEF 2009/Degen
Maftuna Yakubova and her newborn baby boy in the maternity ward of the Perinatal Centre in Ferghana, eastern Uzbekistan.

By Guy Degen

FERGHANA, Uzbekistan, 4 May 2009 – Maftuna Yakubova beams with pride over her newborn baby boy in the maternity ward of the Perinatal Centre in Ferghana, eastern Uzbekistan.  

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When Ms. Yakubova, 26, delivered her first child here five years ago, she said she was given many injections without explanation. The 26-year-old mother said it was painful to deliver lying down on a bed, and she did not know she could breastfeed her child directly after birth.

“This time my family was close by, a relative helped me and I liked using a delivery chair to give birth,” says Ms. Yakubova.

In Uzbekistan, which is still in transition following the break-up of the Soviet Union, there has been progress in the area of maternal and newborn health, but infant mortality remains high. 

International standards
Through a $6 million programme to improve mother and child health, UNICEF and the European Commission are working with the government to help Uzbekistan's hospitals and health workers attain modern international standards in maternal and newborn care. 

In the same centre where Ms. Yakubova gave birth, Umida Makhmudova's face shows both the strain of recovering from a caesarean section and the joy of breastfeeding for the first time.

Her newborn daughter is benefiting from direct skin-to-skin contact after birth – a recently introduced practice in Uzbek hospitals.

© UNICEF 2009/Degen
UNICEF and the European Commission are working with the government to help improve standards for newborn care in Uzbekistan's hospitals.

Ms. Makhmudova says she'll name her daughter Durzoda, meaning pearl, because she has suffered two miscarriages in the past. Based on the way doctors cared for her and explained how they could manage birth complications, she was confident that her recent pregnancy will go to full term – and it did.

“My doctor from this hospital was advising me even before I became pregnant,” says Ms. Makhmudova. “She then monitored my progress all the way throughout my pregnancy.”
Training to save lives
Across Uzbekistan, 12,000 health care providers are receiving training in newborn care and child survival. 

In addition to establishing 17 new training centres, international experts are sharing their knowledge with senior paediatricians, obstetricians and neonatal specialists here.

In the region around the capital, Tashkent, Dr. Malika Usmanova coordinates mother and child health training seminars. As the programme develops, the doctors, nurses and midwives in regional hospitals are becoming better trained and equipped to deal with birth complications. As a result, they can save more lives.

“In Uzbekistan, we still have areas where modern techniques are not practiced. So it's important to have an exchange of experiences,” notes Dr. Usmanova.

Helping hospitals to maintain accurate World Health Organization-defined statistics on live births and causes of infant death will also enable Uzbekistan's health services to plan for the future. UNICEF and the European Commission are confident that these evidence-based, low-cost measures will have a high impact on maternal care as well as newborn and young child survival in Uzbekistan.




UNICEF correspondent Guy Degen reports on efforts to improve maternal health in Uzbekistan.
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