Poor health care, gender inequality, violence and poverty are to blame for Asian-Pacific countries' failure to significantly reduce maternal and child mortality rates in the region, Noeleen Heyzer, executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said during the Asia-Pacific Forum on International Conference on Population and Development in Bangkok, VOA News reports.
Though a decrease in fertility rates in the region, thanks in part to efforts to improve women's education and family planning services, shows progress is being made, Heyzer expressed concerns that the maternal and child mortality rates remain too high - "[w]ith more than 300 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births [in the region], account[ing] for half of the global total" (Schearf, 9/16).
"These tragic and premature deaths are all the more unacceptable as they are largely preventable through the provision of quality reproductive health services and antenatal care," Heyzer said, Inter Press Service reports in a story that examines the ongoing struggle in Laos to reduce the country's maternal mortality rate - which currently stands at "400 deaths for every 100,000 live births in a country of nearly six million people." The article includes information on a new government plan to educate women about the importance of going to hospitals to give birth and promote an "increase [in] the number [of] 'skilled birth attendants' and to improve health facilities for safer childbirth" (Macan-Markar, 9/16).
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