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07.01.2010 Ethiopia

Ethiopian and UN officials devise plan to boost maternal and newborn health

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6 January - United Nations agencies and Ethiopian health officials have developed a comprehensive two-year work plan to boost maternal and newborn health and survival in the Horn of Africa nation, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has announced.

The work plan focuses on both immediate and long-term interventions and involves increasing demand, access and utilization of quality maternal and newborn health services, as well as improving the quality of these services.

In addition, it focuses on strengthening monitoring and evaluation of these services, and improving managerial and institutional capacity, advocacy and partnerships to encourage increased political and financial commitment.

The plan was developed during last month's visit to Ethiopia of UN Health 4 (H4), a joint effort by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Bank to support countries in improving maternal and newborn health and saving the lives of mothers and babies.

“There is a demonstrated link between a mother's health and the health and welfare of her children, particularly newborns,” UNICEF stated in a news release. “Lowering a mother's risk of mortality directly improves her baby's prospects for survival.”

Recent estimates indicate that that Ethiopia has a lifetime maternal mortality risk of 1 in 27 and an under-5 mortality risk of more than 1 in 10.

UNICEF also noted that about half of all global maternal deaths annually occur in sub-Saharan Africa, as do deaths among children under five.

Since 1990, the number of estimated annual global maternal deaths has remained around 500,000, while the absolute number of child deaths in 2008 declined to an estimated 8.8 million from 12.5 million in 1990, the base line year for the global anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The MDG 5 target is to reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio, while the MDG 4 target is to reduce by two thirds the under-five mortality rate.

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