Oman achieves UN goal of re­duc­ing child mor­tal­ity, im­prov­ing women’s health

Muscat Daily - - NATION -

Oman has achieved re­mark­able progress in im­prov­ing chil­dren’s and women’s health.

A study con­ducted by the Na­tional Cen­tre for Sta­tis­tics and In­for­ma­tion (NCSI) in co­op­er­a­tion with the United Na­tions Chil­dre’s Fund (Unicef) on chil­dren and women has found that the coun­try has achieved the fourth Millennium De­vel­op­ment Goals (MDG) of re­duc­ing child mor­tal­ity.

The study finds that the av­er­age life ex­pectancy of women has jumped to 76 years from 51 years in 1971. “For ev­ery 100 chil­dren born, 99 chil­dren lived for more than five years af­ter birth. Now, 98 per cent of chil­dren re­ceive im­mu­ni­sa­tion com­pared to 20 per cent in the 1980s. Progress made on im­mu­ni­sa­tion to re­duce the rate of in­fec­tious dis­eases among chil­dren has been re­mark­able, but the rate of di­ar­rhoea in­fec­tion con­tin­ues to pose a prob­lem in some gov­er­norates. The main causes of in- fant mor­tal­ity have been at­trib­uted to con­gen­i­tal mal­for­ma­tions, pre­na­tal events and com­pli­ca­tions at child­birth.”

Oman has also achieved the first target of de­vel­op­ment goals to re­duce the preva­lence of un­der­weight among new borns by half, and this has led to a de­cline in the rate of stunted growth among chil­dren. The wheat flour for­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gramme launched in 1993 has sig­nif­i­cantly con­trib­uted to the re­duc­tion of anaemia and spinal cord paral­y­sis rates.

The pro­gramme also helped to com­bat Vi­ta­min A de­fi­ciency among chil­dren and moth­ers. The coun­try has also suc­ceeded in con­trol­ling io­dine de­fi­ciency, but there is still a need to achieve a sus­tained and univer­sal cov­er­age by iodised salt. This is be­ing done by im­port­ing iodised salt.

In terms of de­ter­mi­nants of child health and nutri­tion, which in­clude ma­ter­nal health and nu­tri­tional sta­tus, the study finds that Oman has an ex­ten­sive cov­er­age of an­te­na­tal and in­sti­tu­tional de­liv­ery ser­vices. Nine out of ten reg­is­tered preg­nant women re­ceive post­na­tal care ser­vices and all women with live births at­tended a post­na­tal clinic at least once af­ter de­liv­ery.

Such high cov­er­age by ma­ter­nal health ser­vices has led to a de­crease in the ma­ter­nal mor­tal­ity. “Given Oman’s achieve­ment of near univer­sal cov­er­age by ma­ter­nal health ser­vices, the dif­fer­ence is likely to be in the qual­ity of ser­vices and the level of aware­ness among women.”

In 2008, more than half of Omani women wanted to use con­tra­cep­tives but were un­able to do so due to cus­toms and tra- di­tions. Low birth weight is an­other cause of con­cern as it is di­rectly linked with the nu­tri­tional sta­tus of moth­ers. It has been found that one out of four new­born had anaemic mother.

The study also in­di­cated that in­fant and young child­care and feed­ing prac­tices are still be­low op­ti­mal lev­els. Early feed­ing of in­fants with wa­ter, herbs, tea and ar­ti­fi­cial milk pre­vents ex­clu­sive breast­feed­ing. Mis­con­cep­tions that link preg­nancy to child di­ar­rhoea in the breast­fed child shorten the du­ra­tion of con­tin­ued breast­feed­ing.

The WHO/Unicef Joint Mon­i­tor­ing Pro­gram (JMHS) re­ported that 90 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion had ac­cess to good wa­ter sources and san­i­ta­tion fa­cil­i­ties which in turn re­mained a de­ter­mi­nant of child health. “Three-fourths of dwellings in the sul­tanate ben­e­fited from piped wa­ter dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem or pub­lic wa­ter points pro­vided by the gov­ern­ment that is sub­ject to a qual­ity con­trol of con­stantly mon­i­tor­ing the chem­i­cal and mi­cro­bi­o­log­i­cal stan­dards.”

Av­er­age life ex­pectancy of women has jumped to 76 years from 51 years in 1971

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