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Maternal and neonatal health care:

Sri Lanka a model for Third World –UNICEF

Lanka singled out as a success story in latest UNICEF Report

Remarkable drop in maternal, under-five mortality

Sri Lanka has won plaudits from UNICEF as a “model for developing countries” due to its excellent health indices related to mothers and infants.

The UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children’s Report 2009, released yesterday, said Sri Lanka’s achievements in scaling up health services for mothers and infants and its success in slashing maternal and neonatal mortality rates has made the lower middle income country a model for other developing nations. The UNICEF cited Sri Lanka as a strong example of how the health and survival of mothers and their newborns are linked and how many of the interventions that save new mothers’ lives also benefit their infants.

The country’s efforts to empower and educate women together with providing essential heath services have been vital in saving the lives and mothers and infants.

According to the Report, “Sri Lanka has managed to halve its maternal mortality rate every six to 11 years by adopting sound strategies, allocating sufficient resources, providing free health care, making education for all a priority and having the political commitment to improve the health of mothers and children”.

“While the country still faces challenges, the overall picture of maternal and neonatal health is one of remarkable progress over past decades,” said UNICEF’s representative in Sri Lanka Phillppe Duamelle. Between 1960 and 2005, the maternal mortality ratio fell from 340 to 44 per 100,000 live births. Since 1990 the under-five mortality rate has dropped from 32 per 1,000 live births to 13 per 1,000 in 2000. UNICEF has noted that Sri Lanka’s positive results are due in part to a considerable scaling up o essential health services for mothers and infants.

More than 95 per cent of births in Sri Lanka take place in hospitals with a doctor, skilled nurse or midwife in attendance. Immunisation coverage is almost universal at 99 per cent and rates of antenatal care are also high at 95 per cent.

“Measures to empower women through education, employment and social engagement have also had a positive impact on the health of mothers and children,” Duamelle said.

The data on Sri Lanka contrasts sharply with those on most other developing nations. The report reveals that women in the least developed countries are 300 times more likely to die in childbirth or pregnancy-related complications than women in developed countries. A child born in a developing country is 14 times more likely to die during the first month of life than a child born in a developed country.

More than half a million women worldwide die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth complications, including about 70,000 girls and young women aged 15 to 19. Since 1990, complications related to pregnancy and childbirth have killed an estimated 10 million women. The Report recommends that essential services be provided through health systems that integrate home, community, outreach and facility-based care.

Health services are most effective in an environment supportive of women’s empowerment, protection and education, the Report added.

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