Colombo, Jan 15 (IANS) The UN Thursday hailed Sri Lanka as 'a model for other developing nations' for scaling up its health services for mothers and infants, and succeeding in slashing maternal and neonatal mortality rates.
The Unicef in its latest 'State of the World's Children' report said Sri Lanka has managed 'to halve its maternal mortality rate every six to 11 years by adopting sound strategies, allocating sufficient resources, providing free healthcare and making education for all a priority'.
The Unicef report released Thursday said in spite of decades of civil conflict and the devastating effects of the 2004 tsunami, the island nation has 'the political commitment to improve the health of mothers and children'.
'While the country still faces challenges - such as high levels of under-nutrition and regional disparities in terms of maternal care - the overall picture of maternal and neonatal health is one of remarkable progress over past decades,' Unicef's country representative Philippe Duamelle said in a statement.
According to the report, the maternal mortality ratio had dropped from 340 to 44 per 100,000 live births between 1960 and 2005. Since 1990, the under-five mortality rate has also dropped from 32 per 1,000 live births to 13 per 1,000 in 2000.
The Unicef attributed Sri Lanka's positive results to the considerable scaling-up of essential health services for mothers and infants.
'More than 95 percent of births in Sri Lanka now take place in hospitals with a skilled nurse, midwife or doctor in attendance. Immunisation coverage is almost universal at 99 percent,' it said, adding that the rates of antenatal care were also high at 95 percent.
The report said that women in the world's least developed countries are 300 times more likely to die in childbirth or from pregnancy-related complications than women in developed countries. At the same time, a child born in a developing country is almost 14 times more likely to die during the first month of life than a child born in a developed one.
'Approximately 99 percent of global deaths arising from pregnancy and complications occur in the developing world, where having a child remains among the most serious health risks for women,' Unicef's report said, highlighting the link between maternal and neonatal survival.
'Sri Lanka is a strong example of how the health and survival of mothers and their newborns are linked, and how many of the interventions that save new mothers' lives also benefit their infants,' it said.