CHILDREN'S DISEASES: CIS MORTALITY RATE THRICE EXCEEDS EU

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MOSCOW, April 6 (Olga Sobolevskaya, RIA Novosti commentator) - A baby born in one of the CIS countries is running the danger of dying before the age of five three times greater than a baby born in a European Union country. The alarming figure came from Mikko Vienonen, special envoy of the WHO (World Health Organization) Director General, as he was addressing a Novosti news conference.

Respiratory infections, deformities, injuries and meningitis come as principal causes of infant deaths, he said.

It is, however, an easy job to reduce maternal and child mortality-suffice it to provide necessary medicines to mother and child, improve their diet, and facilitate access to emergency aid in postnatal complications, stressed Mr. Vienonen.

Russian infant mortality rates are going down, though they still remain above the European Union's, said Karel de Roy of the UNICEF. The number of deaths below twelve months of age per ten thousand babies was 147, 2001, and 124, two years later. Among other reasons, he ascribes the shrinkage to Russian social and economic improvements and government agencies' smooth performance. Much remains to be done, however, especially in the country's backward areas, and the hopeful trend is to get steady.

More than 3.3 million babies in the world come stillborn every year, more than four million die before they reach the age of 28 days, and 6.6 million below five years. "The disaster is comparable to the tsunami that hit Thailand and some other countries last year," said Mr. Vienonen.

A global 529,000 women die every year during pregnancy, in childbirth and in the postnatal time, say WHO statistics.

This year's World Health Day, due tomorrow, has a motto: "No mother, no child left behind". The day will help attract public attention to mother and child protection, hopes Mr. Vienonen.

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