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Extreme Risks for Pregnant Women and Newborn Babies in Developing Countries

   Pregnancy 300 times deadlier in least developed world

   CHISINAU, 15 January 2009 - 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, according to UNICEF’s latest State of the World’s Children report, released today at Johannesburg. 

   At the same time, 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.

  The health and survival of mothers and their newborns are linked, and many of the interventions that save new mothers’ lives also benefit their infants. The 2009 edition of UNICEF’s flagship publication, The State of the World’s Children, highlights the link between maternal and neonatal survival, and suggests opportunities to close the gap between rich and poor 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,” said Ann M. Veneman, UNICEF Executive Director, at the Johannesburg launch. “Since 1990, complications related to pregnancy and childbirth have killed an estimated 10 million women.”

   Both mothers and infants are vulnerable in the days and weeks after birth – a critical time for life-saving interventions, such as post-natal visits, proper hygiene, and counseling about the danger signs of maternal and newborn health.

   While many developing countries have made excellent progress improving their child survival rate in recent years, there has been less headway in reducing maternal mortality. The countries with the highest lifetime risk of maternal death are Niger, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Chad, Angola, Liberia, and other African and Asian states, where high fertility rates, a shortage of trained personnel and weak health systems spell tragedy for many young women. A woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death in these countries ranges from 1 in 7 in Niger to 1 in 15 in Mali. 

   And for every woman who dies, another 20 suffer illnesses or injury, often with severe and lasting consequences. 

   Moldova has undergone considerable improvements with regard to mother and child healthcare, so maternal mortality rate has continued to decrease from 27.1 per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 15, 6 for 100,000 live births in 2007. This was possible due to the reform of the primary health care and perinatological system, implying elaboration of national policies and standards in perinatal care; regionalization of perinatal care; implementation of technologies and new equipment recommended by WHO; strengthening the capacity of  the medical staff, as well as family education and community mobilisation. UNICEF continue to support the Government in the implementation of the reforms and advocacy for safe and healthy behavior. In 2009 UNICEF supports the Government by providing perinatal equipment worth about 1 million US dollars. 

   “To save the lives of children we need to address the health of their mothers”, stated Alexandra Yuster, the UNICEF Representative in Moldova. “This requires not only medical intervention, but also an environment that empowers women and respects their rights. UNICEF supports the Moldovan Government in helping women and children gain access to essential timely services at home, in their communities, and in health facilities”.

  According to the UNICEF global report, while the rate of survival for children under five years of age is improving globally, the risks faced by infants in the first 28 days remain at unacceptably high levels in many countries. 

   Since 1990  the infant mortality rate in the Republic of Moldova has decreased by 35.4% and the neonatal mortality rate by 30%. Despite the progress, access to the most vulnerable families and children remains a challenge and more needs to be done to ensure child health improvement.

   Moldova ranks 117th among 189 countries in estimated 2007 under-five mortality rate, the most evident indicator of the well-being of children. Moldova ranks above Ukraine, Turkey, Georgia, China and Brazil, but stands behind Russia Federation, Romania, Bulgaria and the Baltic States. Slovenia, Spain, Luxembourg and Sweden are the countries with the lowest under-five mortality rate.    


   About UNICEF

  UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments

   Attention broadcasters:

   Video footage is available free of charge at

   For more information, and interviews, please contact:

   In Chisinau:

  Lina Botnaru, Media Officer, UNICEF Moldova 269 235

   In Johannesburg:

  Shantha Bloemen, UNICEF South Africa,  +27 11517-1617,
  Yvonne Duncan, UNICEF South Africa,  + cell: + 27 (0) 82 561 3970
  Brian Hansford, UNICEF, mobile ++ 1 917 605 1699, e-mail:

  In New York:

  Kate Donovan, UNICEF New York, Tel:  ++ 212 326 7452 e-mail:
  Christian Moen, UNICEF, New York, Tel:  ++ 212 326 7516 e-mail:

  In Geneva:

  Veronique Taveau, UNICEF Geneva, Tel: +41 22 909 5716,



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