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Central Asia: WHO Says Women At Risk In Childbirth

London, 8 April 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday that women in Kyrgyzstan are 10 to 12 times more likely to die at childbirth or soon afterwards than mothers in Denmark or Germany.

In a statement to mark "World Health Day" (April 7), the WHO says an acute lack of drugs and equipment is threatening the quality of ante-natal and obstetric care in the Central Asian and Caucasus countries. It says Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are most in need.

The WHO recently launched a drive in the Central Asian and Caucasus countries to show how low-cost community initiatives can significantly reduce the mortality rate of mothers and infants.

The WHO statement says safe motherhood is a human right that extends beyond the services provided before and after birth.

Every year nine million women in central and eastern Europe must resort to abortions because they cannot afford to buy modern effective contraceptives. About one in five women suffer from acts of violence, many of them committed during pregnancy.

The WHO statement says laws governing social security and health care during pregnancy and motherhood are often insufficiently implemented in both eastern and western countries.

It notes that mothers from immigrant communities are much more likely to suffer from pregnancy complications than others.

The WHO has launched an assistance program in order to help countries implement policies aimed at protecting mothers and children from physical and psychological harm and abuse.

The WHO is to bring together representatives from all health ministries in the European region for a conference in Copenhagen from May 11-13 to explore ways of making motherhood safer.

The statement was issued by the WHO's European regional office in Copenhagen which also has responsibility for the Caucasus and Central Asian countries.