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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 April, 2005, 07:19 GMT 08:19 UK
WHO appeals for better baby care
Mothers and their babies at a free immunisation clinic in the Philippines
Many of the causes of early death are easily treatable
More basic health care is needed to prevent the deaths of millions of babies during and soon after birth, the World Health Organization has said.

Half a million women die in childbirth every year, as do almost 11 million under-fives, the organisation says.

The UN agency says many of the conditions which cause the deaths can be avoided or easily treated.

It has appealed for a significant increase in funding to improve maternal and infant health care.

'Scandal'

"We know what needs to be done to avoid this massacre: action is simple and not so costly," Marie-Paule Kieny, head of the WHO's family health department, said.

The pregnancy-related deaths of half a million women every year was "a scandal", she added, the AFP news agency reported.

One woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth and 20 children under five die every minute across the world, the report said.

The annual toll of 11 million deaths includes more than four million newborns who die before they are a month old, but not some 3.3 million stillbirths every year.

Less than two thirds of women in developing countries give birth with the help of qualified assistance, a proportion that drops to less than one-third in the poorest countries, according to the World Health Report.

Pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, measles, Aids and neonatal ailments were found to be the main killers of children under five.

The UN agency said $9bn (4.7bn) needed to be invested every year over the next decade in those countries most affected, if they were to reach United Nations' development goals on child mortality.


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