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UNICEF supports the Ministry of Health to reduce equity gaps in mother and child health care

Mr. Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative, Mr. Bujar Osmani, Minister of Health, Ms. Simone Filippini, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Netherlands

 Skopje, 29 September: The Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands through its ORIO grant facility has agreed to provide 6.3 million euro over three years to support the implementation of a strategy for improvement of mother and child health services in this country.  The proposal was developed by the Ministry of Health, with technical support from UNICEF. The grant will support outreach services, improvement of infrastructure, replacement of outdated equipment and continuous professional development of health staff working in mother and child health services.
“This project is all about seeking out the disadvantaged and hardest-to-reach children in the country and ensuring that they have access to high quality basic health care services. On this note, I would like to commend the Minister of Health and the government for making the commitment to do more”, said Mr. Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative,” and the Dutch government  for providing the necessary funds to make this possible.“

The project was developed based on recent UNICEF-supported assessments of mother and child health services in the country including: the Assessment of the National Immunization System, the Assessment of the Quality of Perinatal Health Service and the Assessment of the Community Nursing System.

The country still has one of the highest perinatal mortality rates (early neonatal and still births), in Europe (16,4 per 1000 births, 2009 compared to EU average of 6 per 1,000 births). Although the infant mortality rate (deaths in the first year of life) has halved between 1991 to 2004, the downward trend has recently stagnated at11,7 per 1000 births in 2009. The infant mortality rate is still three times higher than the EU average of 4.75. Based on the findings of these studies the main causes are limited antenatal care for pregnant women or inappropriate health seeking practices of pregnant women; outdated equipment, guidelines and protocols contributing to poor quality of services; and immunization gaps in rural areas and in Roma communities.

Data available in the strategy highlight that half of all pregnant women especially those living in rural areas, are never visited by patronage nurses. The situation with minority groups, such as Roma, is more concerning. Over 20% of Roma pregnant women do not visit a physician during pregnancy, while one in two visited a physician only once during pregnancy.

“By committing  additional government funds in the amount of 11.3  million euro to ensure quality health care for all children and pregnant women, the Ministry of Health demonstrates a firm commitment to further decrease infant and maternal mortality rates”, said Minister of Health. Bujar Osmani.

For further information, please contact:
Suzie Pappas Capovska, Communications Officer, UNICEF Skopje, (02) 3231-150 (ext :127),
072  236 725 or  



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