Countries meet to accelerate progress in maternal and newborn health in Central Asia and the Caucasus

20 July 2017
Улучшение здоровья матерей и новорожденных

BISHKEK, 20 July 2017 – Health experts from around the world have come together in Bishkek to an intercountry Symposium to discuss ways and opportunities to accelerate maternal and newborn health in Central Asia and the Caucasus regions, all part of the strategy to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“This Symposium will contribute to advance the maternal and newborn health agenda in our country and the region through implementing five priority strategies of the Every Newborn Action Plan. We are very proud to host it in Bishkek with participation of world-known health experts”, said Talantbek Batyraliev, Minister of Health of the Kyrgyz Republic.

With generous support of the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic, about 100 high calibre managers and experts on maternal and newborn health from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan have come together with teams from UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the International Paediatric Association (IPA) in collaboration with the SickKids Centre for Global Child Health (C-GCH), The Coalition of Centres in Global Child Health (The Coalition), Aga Khan University (AKU) and the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) to discuss the strategies needed to advance the maternal and newborn health agenda in the region through implementing the Every Newborn Action Plan (ENAP).

Focusing on the ENAP, this symposium will look to address each aspect of the plan and will stimulate discussion to apply its framework for accelerating progress of maternal and newborn health in the region of Central Asian and the Caucasus. To achieve the vision and goals of ENAP, the plan proposes five strategic objectives:

  1. Strengthen and invest in care during labour, birth and the first day and week of life 
  2. Improve the quality of maternal and newborn care
  3. Reach every woman and newborn to reduce inequities
  4. Harness the power of parents, families and communities
  5. Count every newborn through measurement

This event aims to engage key stakeholders, academics, researchers, bilateral agencies and media, with a commitment to achieving the SDGs, having a particular emphasis on maternal and newborn child health and nutrition.

“The Sustainable Development Goals provide an incredible opportunity for addressing the social determinants and more proximate causes of child mortality and health. The region of Central Asia and the Caucuses is extremely well poised at this stage to coordinate its activities to accelerate action to meet the sustainable development targets for maternal and newborn survival”, said Dr. Zulfiqar Bhutta, President of the International Pediatrics Association, Founding Director of the Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health at the Aga Khan University, Co-Director of the SickKids Centre for Global Child Health, and Chair, The Coalition of Centres in Global Child Health.

Despite the substantial progress that has been made in recent decades to reduce the number of child deaths worldwide, infant and neonatal deaths still account for 52 per cent of all child deaths in children under the age of 5.

The majority of all neonatal deaths, 75 per cent, occurs during the first week of life, and 25 per cent to 45 per cent occur within the first 24 hours. Although in some countries the national averages for newborn mortality looks promising, there are still huge disparities at sub-national levels.

“Newborn mortality is still an unfinished agenda in Central Asia and the Caucasus despite the significant achievements in reduction of under 5 mortality, with complications of delivery, congenital malformation, prematurity and infection as the main causes of deaths. Many of these newborn deaths are preventable through evidence based, high quality and effective interventions, which needs to be further accelerated to reach every mother and every newborn," said Amirhossein Yarparvar, Regional Health and Nutrition Specialist, UNICEF Regional Office for Central & Eastern Europe & CIS.

Newborn health is part of the unfinished agenda of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which is now included as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Target 3.2 aims to end preventable deaths of newborns by 2030 and for all countries to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births. Improvement of newborn health requires joint action of health professionals involved in maternal, newborn and child health.

"Preventing the deaths of young infants in the first month of their life, when they are particularly vulnerable, is one of the remaining big challenges in Central Asia and the Caucasus," said Dr. Martin Weber, Programme Manager for Child and Adolescent Health and Development at the WHO Regional Office for Europe. "The symposium brings together a range of stakeholders to ensure that we collectively take the necessary steps to address this unfinished business, thereby helping us achieve key targets of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda."

Media contacts

Mavliuda Dzhaparova
Communication Officer
UNICEF Kyrgyzstan


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About the WHO Regional Office for Europe

The primary role of the World Health Organization (WHO) is to direct and coordinate international health within the United Nations’ system. The WHO Regional Office for Europe (WHO/Europe) is one of WHO’s six regional offices around the world. Through offices in 29 countries, 3 technical centres, and in the main office in Copenhagen, Denmark, WHO/Europe staff work side by side with governments and other partners to ensure the highest attainable level of health for all people.

About The Coalition

The Coalition of Centres in Global Child Health (The Coalition) is a global network of expert individuals and academic centres and institutions that have expressed commitment to a collectively-developed set of principles and plans of advancing global child health. The Coalition provides a platform for enhancing research capacity and global collaboration and knowledge exchange to improve child health, development and survival. Visit for more information.

About SickKids Centre for Global Child Health

The Centre for Global Child Health is the dedicated hub for global child health-focused activities at SickKids. The Centre supports the global agenda for newborn, child and adolescent health  through collaborative research grounded in scholarship, sustainable capacity building through education, the use of evidence to inform policy development, and advocacy for improved health for children and families. Visit for more information.