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Infant mortality high in poor areas

THE United Nations Children's Fund's Chinese edition of the State of the World's Children 2009 Report shows a huge disparity in maternal and infant mortality rates between coastal and remote areas and urban and rural areas.

Almost 1.6 times as many mothers die during childbirth in rural areas as in urban centers, said the report released in Beijing yesterday. Infant and child mortality is almost 2.7 times higher in the western than eastern regions, 2.4 times higher in rural than urban areas, and even five times higher in the poorest rural counties than in large cities.

"While China has made great progress in maternal and child health in recent years, further gains can be made in reducing maternal and newborn mortality in China," said Dr Yin Yin Nwe, UNICEF's representative to China.

Maternal and child mortality rates in China are at an intermediate level by global standards but are still far higher than in developed countries and higher than some countries less economically developed than China, such as Vietnam, according to the report.

About 7,000 women die in childbirth each year in China, down 59 percent from 1990 levels, but still representing 1.3 percent of the world's maternal deaths. An estimated 382,000 children died before their fifth birthday in 2007, with 60 percent of those dying in the first four weeks of life mainly because of asphyxia before delivery, low birth weight and infection.

"Interventions for avoiding death of many mothers and infants are actually very simple," said Dr Hans Anders Troedsson, World Health Organization China Representative, "such as periodical health checks, skillful delivery and the very effective one, breast feeding."

"Last year's milk powder scandal in China told us the importance of breast feeding and the risk of feeding infants with formula milk," said Troedsson.

The health of Chinese mothers and children has been largely improved since the 1990s because of medical insurance reform, better public health facilities and maternal and infant healthcare laws, said Zhang Deying, inspector with the Department of Maternal and Child Health Care and Community Health, Ministry of Health.


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