ANKARA - Turkish Daily News
The high rate of infant mortality is an important problem in Turkey, and the deaths of more than two dozen newborn babies at a maternity hospital in Ankara in the past two weeks once again highlights the country's infant mortality rate, which is among the highest in Europe.
A total of 47 of the 504 babies that were treated in the Zekai Tahir Burak hospital, one of Turkey's busiest and leading obstetrics and gynecology hospitals, in July died. Of those deaths, 28 took place in the last 15 days. The hospital, which handles high-risk births, announced that most of the newborns died due to premature delivery-related complications.
Turkey's infant mortality rate in 2006 was 24 per 1,000 newborns, which remains almost six or seven times higher than European countries, according to the United Nations World Population Prospects report. This is a considerably high figure compared with neighboring Greece, where 6.7 in 1,000 died in the same year.
In 2006, the infant mortality rate was 4.2 per 1,000 in France, 4.8 in the United Kingdom, 4.3 in Germany, 5.0 in Italy and 4.2 in Spain, according to the U.N. report. Under-five mortality rates are still high in Turkey, with 31.6 per 1,000 in 2006. This is considerably higher than in the United Kingdom, where the figure is 6.0; France, where the figure is 5.2; and Germany, where the figure is 5.4.
According to the U.N. Children's Fund, or UNICEF, and U.N. Development Program, or UNDP, Turkey has shown significant progress in reducing the infant and under-five mortality rates, a target set by the two organizations, it but needs to take further steps in this respect.
Organizational problems need to be solved
UNICEF reports say rural populations lag behind urban dwellers in mortality rates, while the UNDP reports say both the under-five mortality and the infant mortality rates are high compared to other European counties; although a significant decrease has been observed in the last 13 years.
According to the 2007 Millennium Development Goals Report by the UNDP, 10.1 million children died before their fifth birthday, mostly from preventable causes, including the measles in particular. The UNDP's target for Turkey for 2015 is to reduce under-five mortality and infant mortality rates by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015 as well as to immunize at least 95 percent of children by 2015 to combat measles.
�Turkey's progress in infant mortality rates is not so promising despite a decrease in recent years,� said pediatrics professor Murat Yurdakök of the Ankara-based Hacettepe University.
�The infant mortality rates are even higher in the east and rural areas. The economic development level of Turkey remains among the highest in the world while the infant mortality rates are high, a striking contrast.�
He said the deficiencies in the preventive and protective health services and problems in referral system are the major reasons for the high infant mortality rates in Turkey. He also said monitoring in pregnancy, giving birth in proper sanitary conditions and vaccination were vital in reducing the mortality figures.
�All these are part of a chain to reduce the high figures and organization in all these fields is better in the West,� he noted.
Yılmaz Ateş, the deputy leader of the Republican People's Party, or CHP, meanwhile, visited the Zekai Tahir Burak hospital yesterday together with some CHP deputies and said the negligence of the government and the Health Ministry caused the deaths in the hospital, urging courts to intervene in the incident.