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