Families around the world celebrate Mother's Day Sunday. But being
a mother can be difficult in the developing countries of Asia, where many
children die soon after their birth, or before they reach the age of five.
In developing countries, childbirth is often a life and death struggle
for both mothers and children.
The charity, Save the Children, says more than four million infants
worldwide die in their first month of life each year, mostly due to
infections. A third of the deaths occur in Southeast Asia. South Asia has
the highest rates of newborn deaths in the world, next to Africa. In
Afghanistan and Pakistan, for example, up to six percent of infants die in
their first month.
Many women also do not survive complications during pregnancy and
Amy Weissman, a health expert for Save the Children in Vietnam, says
the mothers most at risk are young, uneducated women who give birth at
home, without the help of skilled professionals.
"The things that really make a difference around a woman's survival are
her level of education, her access to quality health care and her use of
modern family planning," said Weissman. "So, those things really need to
be in place for a woman and her child to survive and thrive."
Children who survive the first few weeks are still at risk in many
developing countries of Asia.
The World Health Organization says about 3,000
children under the age of five die each day in the western Pacific region.
Most of the countries with a high child mortality
spend less than five percent of their gross domestic product on health.
Marianna Trias, advisor on child health at the WHO regional office in
Manila, says common diseases, such as pneumonia and diarrhea, cause most
childhood deaths. In some countries, Laos and Cambodia, for instance,
malaria is a major killer.
She says tools that can save children's lives, such as immunizations,
nutritional supplements and insecticide-treated bed nets, are well known
"But what is needed is the infrastructure, the human resources and
financial resources to put this all in place and deliver the life-saving
interventions through the health system," explained Trias.
Trias says some countries in the region have made good progress in
recent years on reducing the number of childhood deaths. They include
China, Mongolia, Vietnam and the Philippines, where governments have
implemented plans to improve child and maternal health.