Thursday, January 15, 2009

UN Children Fund unveils new annual report

The United Nations Children's Fund says that millions of deaths that happened last year were preventable. 4 million babies died as well as a half a million mothers. The stats come from the latest issue of the funds annual report.

UNICEF took the occasion to highlight the situations in Gaza and Zimbabwe. The fund says that half of the population in Gaza are children. Meanwhile, the collapse of the health system in Zimbabwe has put many children lives in danger.

Delia Robertson of the Voice of America was at the UNICEF press conference that introduced the report.

The study shows that a woman in a least developed country is 300 times more likely to die from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth than a woman in the developed world. And a child born in a least developed country is nearly 14 times more likely to die within 28 days, than a child born in an industrialized country.

Veneman says the impact is greatest in Africa and Asia.

"The burden is disproportionately heavy in Africa and Asia," she said. "Ninety-five percent of maternal deaths occur in Africa and Asia combined and 90 percent of newborn deaths occur in Africa and Asia. In southern Africa a high number of maternal and newborn deaths are related to HIV/AIDS. The health of the child is inextricably linked to the health of the mother."

Veneman notes that many women and newborns die needlessly and says this can be prevented by ensuring mothers and babies have adequate nutrition, that hygiene practices are improved and through better access to skilled health care and emergency services at birth. She said research indicates that around 80 percent of maternal deaths could be prevented if women had access to essential maternity and basic health care services.

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