Rural mortality rates in China outpace urban areas by up to six-fold – UN-backed report

Rural mortality rates in China outpace urban areas by up to six-fold – UN-backed report

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Mortality rates in China’s least developed rural areas, where just under half the country’s 1.3 billion people live, are four to six times higher than urban areas, accounting for three quarters of total mortality, and the Government should give priority to ensuring universal maternal and child health care, according to a United Nations-backed report launched in Beijing.

Mortality rates in China’s least developed rural areas, where just under half the country’s 1.3 billion people live, are four to six times higher than urban areas, accounting for three quarters of total mortality, and the Government should give priority to ensuring universal maternal and child health care, according to a United Nations-backed report launched in Beijing.

But despite serious concerns about slowing progress due to increasing disparities between urban and rural areas as well as the state of vulnerable populations such as migrant workers, the world’s most populous country is on track to reach Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on maternal and child health.

MDGs 4 and 5, part of an ambitious eight-point programme adopted by the UN Millennium Summit of 2000 to drastically slash a host of social ills by 2015, aim to cut the mortality rate among children under five by two thirds and the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters.

“Our challenge is to reach the most marginalized and vulnerable populations and ensure universal access to affordable and equitable health care, for only equitable and harmonious development will enable China to fully reach the Millennium Development Goals,” UNICEF representative Yin Yin Nwe said.

The report, the outcome of review conducted by the UNICEF, the UN World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and the Chinese Health Ministry with assistance from national and international experts, calls for increased funds for health services in poor areas, an effective strategy for human resource development and a strengthened maternal and child health surveillance system.

While China is experiencing an epidemiological transition, with diarrhoea a significant cause of death only in very remote areas, four or five causes of death remain responsible for over 75 per cent of all maternal and child deaths, it notes.

With neonatal mortality and post-partum haemorrhage still leading causes of death, universal access to essential obstetrical and neonatal care, as well some other key high-impact interventions such as exclusive breast-feeding, have the potential to further reduce maternal mortality by 52 per cent and child mortality by 34 per cent, the report says.