HA NOI — The rate of maternal and child mortality in Viet Nam is rapidly decreasing, Luu Thi Hong, deputy director of the Ministry of Health's Department of Mother-Child Health said yesterday at a conference in Ha Noi to mark World Population Day.
|A midwife in Dien Bien Province's Muong Cha District tends to a mother and child. Improving midwifery skills could help reduce maternal mortality rates. — VNA/VNS Photo Duong Ngoc
However, Hong said there were significant differences between regions,
The maternal mortality rate is now 69 per 100,000 live births whereas the rate in 1990 was 233 per 100,000 live births.
The country's child mortality rate now is 0.25 per cent whereas the rate in 1990 was 0.44 per cent.
Hong said the rate in mountain areas was 71.4 per cent of the total, three times higher than elsewhere.
This year, World Population Day was launched world-wide by the United Nations Population Fund with the theme Universal Access to Reproductive Health Services.
Departmental research shows that maternal and child mortality in mountain areas is more than three times higher than in lowland areas.
Hong said the rate in mountain areas was high because of limited access to healthcare for mothers before, during and after child birth.
"Giving birth without medical support staff is quite common in these areas," she said.
In district hospitals, 27.8 per cent of doctors are skilled in obstetrics, whereas in provinces and central hospitals, the rate is 41.7 per cent.
And up to 15 per cent of medical stations in 62 poor districts do not have any obstetric medical workers.
More than 12,000 remote mountain villages need trained midwives. However, since 2009, a total of only 1,140 midwives received training courses in the whole of Viet Nam, said Hong.
"Moreover, village midwives are not recognised as medical staff, and there is no policy about providing financial support for them," she said.
Village midwives receive a small allowance of VND50,000 (US$2.3) per month from the national target programme.
However, the Ministry of Health claims it will now put emphasis on training obstetrics and paediatric doctors to quickly supplement the specialist workforce, said Hong.
The ministry will ask the National Assembly and the Government to increase investment in reproductive healthcare through the national target programme.
It said it needs a minimum of VND100 billion ($4.7 million) a year to better meet the increasing demand of mother-child services.
From 2008 to now, the budget for reproductive healthcare was only about VND35 billion ($1.6 million) a year.
The ministry will also use leaflets and multi media to increase the knowledge of healthcare during pregnancy among people in mountain and other remote areas.
The information will also explain how pregnant mothers can be at risk without proper and regular prenatal care or in giving birth without trained medical assistance.
Mandeep O'Brien, United Nation Population Fund Representative in Viet Nam, said to prevent maternal and neonatal deaths, health systems had to be strengthened.
The health sector should also invest in health workers with midwifery skills, and ensure access to emergency obstetric care when complications arise.
"These measures, if implemented comprehensively would not only save many lives, but would also improve the nation's economic and social productivity," she said. — VNS