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UNICEF campaign: Macedonia ranks 2nd in Europe in newborn mortality rate


UNICEF launched Tuesday across the world the Every Child Alive Campaign as a conscious effort stemming from a commitment of all governments to make newborn mortality a thing of the past.

UNICEF is calling on governments, health care providers, donors, the private sector, families and businesses to keep every child alive, everywhere, it said in a statement.

Macedonia has the second highest rate of newborn mortality in Europe with Moldova being ranked first.

"We can give these babies more than a day, more than a month - more than just survival. We can save the vast majority of these babies with affordable, quality health care solutions for every mother and every newborn. In our context here, this means ensuring proper pre-natal care, check-ups and visits for all pregnant women throughout the country - especially rural women who can often be most distant from health services. It also requires ensuring access and rapid transfer to neonatal intensive care units in case of complication," reads an op-ed by UNICEF Representative Benjamin Perks to mark the launch of the campaign.

According to him, Macedonia has great health professionals. But, he says, doctors and nurses are only as good as the system they work in. Evidence based, internationally accredited protocols and guidelines that govern most European health systems not only need to be in place – professionals need the capacity to put them into practices.

"Over the past few years the emphasis has been on renovation and equipment-but as with schools or policing-what really matters is the human capital and the systems that help them to flourish and to serve the citizens with excellence and the care they deserve. We need a system that will reward excellence and thoroughness and hold accountable negligence," Perks says.

In Macedonia, nearly one in four women smoke during pregnancy. This increases the risk of multiple adverse pregnancy-related health outcomes, including low birth weight, neonatal mortality, stillbirth and preterm delivery.

"Expecting mother need to be better informed about the danger signs and symptoms and about the risks of labour and delivery. And the best way to do this is to through empowering mothers and families to demand and receive quality care," notes Perks.

UNICEF says it salutes the recent commitment of the Ministry of Health on developing an Every Newborn Action Plan to address these gaps. "Along with our sister United Nations agencies the World Health Orгanisation (WHO) & the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UNICEF will support the government and the people in ensuring every child’s inherent right to life is fulfilled," Perks concludes.

Ultimately this is important for all us of because the benefits of proper care in the first phase of life are life-lasting and are a major determinant of wellbeing throughout the child’s life cycle and the long-term economic development of the country."

The UN children's agency in a report released Tuesday says that babies born in Japan, Iceland and Singapore have the best chance at survival, while newborns in Pakistan, the Central African Republic and Afghanistan face the worst odds.

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