Infant deaths decrease in Turkey .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} ANKARA - Despite unpromising figures worldwide, Turkey is among the top countries in reducing maternal and child mortality rates, according to the health minister who accredited the success to new health programs and clinics.

There has been a steady reduction in maternal and child mortality in Turkey, according to a recent report on the state of the world’s children released by the United Nations Children's Fund, or UNICEF.

The maternal mortality rate, which was at 28.4 per 100,000 live births in 2005, dropped to 21.3 in 2007, according to the Turkish Health Ministry’s data. The report reveals Turkey has witnessed a decrease by one-third in child mortality between 1990 and 2007.

A press conference was held yesterday in Ankara to promote UNICEF’s 2009 report on the state of the world’s children with the participation of UNICEF Turkey Representative Reza Hossaini and Health Minister Recep Akdağ.

Maternal deaths highest in Africa and Asia
Speaking at the event, Hossaini said this year’s report focused on maternal and newborn health as a reduction of maternal and child mortality rates was one target to be achieved by 2015 in line with the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. The unpromising figures and the gap between developed and developing countries were other reasons that had prompted them to focus on the issue. In the world, 530,000 maternal deaths occurred annually because of pregnancy and childbirth related reasons, representing 1,500 maternal deaths every day, while 3.7 million children died within 28 days of birth.

Around 10 million women have died of maternal- and childbirth-related complications since 1990. The risk of death due to pregnancy and childbirth-related complications for women in the world’s least developed countries was 300 times greater than in developed countries. Likewise, a child born in a developing country is almost 14 times more likely to die during the first month of his or her birth than a child born in a developed country.

Approximately 99 percent of global deaths from pregnancy and childbirth-related complications occured in developing countries, where having a child remained among the most serious health risks for women. Most of the deaths occurred in Africa and Asia, with 50 percent of maternal deaths taking place in Africa, according to report.

Maternal and newborn deaths in decline in Turkey
Despite unpromising figures in the world, Turkey has recorded a visible achievement in reducing maternal and child mortality rates thanks to health programs, according to Akdağ.

The newborn and infant mortality rate in Turkey dropped from 52.9 per 1,000 live births in 1993 to 16.5 in 2008, according to data from the Health Ministry. The maternal mortality rate, which was 28.4 per 100,000 live births in 2005, dropped to 21.3 in 2007.

Under the Millennium Development Goals, U.N. members, including Turkey, committed themselves to reducing maternal mortality rates by three-quarters and under-5 mortality rates by two-thirds by 2015. Turkey is on track to achieve both targets. Turkey has been one of six countries, after Thailand, Peru, Maldives, Portugal and Vietnam that has achieved the most rapid reduction rate in under-5 infant mortality, Akdağ said.

Infant deaths have also begun to show a balanced distribution across Turkey, whereas in the past the infant and newborn deaths were mostly in the least developed parts of the country. Also, the rate of childbirth at hospitals has increased.

There has been a significant increase in the number of health centers and personnel, according to Akdağ. The number of health centers has increased from 2,572 to around 5,000 in rural areas. The number of intensive health care units increased from 665 in 2002 to 2,918 in 2008. The Health Ministry has also implemented programs to improve infant and child nutrition, especially by ensuring provision of iron and Vitamin D.