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UN agencies help Central African Republic try to reduce maternal, child deaths

UN agencies help Central African Republic try to reduce maternal, child deaths

Three United Nations humanitarian agencies have helped the impoverished Central African Republic (CAR) launch a 10-year programme to reach global targets for reducing maternal deaths and cutting child mortality.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said today that the scheme will focus on health services in rural areas, nutrition monitoring, the promotion of breast-feeding, preventing HIV/AIDS transmission from parent to child and better care for HIV/AIDS patients. The aim is to bring the CAR nearer to reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) have teamed up for the drive, taking place in a country which has endured a sharp increase in the number of maternal and infant deaths in recent years.

CAR Government statistics show that the maternal mortality rate has jumped from 683 deaths per 10,000 people in 1988 to 948 deaths just seven years later. The number of infants dying has also surged, rising from 97 per 1,000 births in 1994-95 to 130 five years later.

Mr. Dujarric said the CAR has only one health centre for every 6,000 people and one hospital bed per 1,095 patients. HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis - as well as the practice of female genital mutilation - are considered by UN agencies to be the chief causes of maternal and infant mortality.

The MDGs, eight goals set by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000, include slashing the mortality rate of children under five by two-thirds, and reducing the mortality rate of mothers by three-quarters.