A report by the United Nations Children's Fund
(UNICEF) accuses Armenia, some European countries
and some countries of the Commonwealth of Independent
States of underreporting their infant death rates.
"Our research showed that infant mortality
is a great problem in these countries, and that
the numbers are higher than suggested in the official
data," said UNICEF Executive Director Carol
Speaking about overall conditions in all the
surveyed counties, she added: "We have looked
beyond the official statistics and talked to mothers
in their own homes. And their stories reveal a
child survival crisis."
According to UNICEF 's Social Monitor Report
2003, the infant death rate in the Caucasus and
Central Asia is twelve times greater than in western
Presenting the organization's report last week
in Rome, Bellamy said in some countries deaths
among children less than one year old were four
times higher than the official counts.
The report compares the official infant mortality
rate in these countries against data gathered
in face-to-face interviews with women.
As it specifically concerned Armenia: the report
(based on research conducted in 2000-2001) found
an infant mortality rate of 36 deaths per 1,000
live births. The numbers sharply differ from official
government data, which puts the ratio at 15 deaths
per 1,000 live births.
Poghosyan says the Ministry of Health will
take measures to improve infant welfare.
(By comparison, Azerbaijan reported 17 deaths
per 1,000; the UNICEF survey put the number at
74 per 1,000.)
In response to the UNICEF report, officials from
the Armenian Ministry of Health say that the official
figures on infant mortality are correct as they
come from maternity hospitals and polyclinics.
And the local chapter of UNICEF says that both
the statistics of the Ministry of Health and of
UNICEF are correct. The discrepancy, the local
office maintains, is conditioned by the different
ways of collecting figures.
At a press conference last Friday the head of
the first aid department of the Ministry of Health,
Vahan Poghosyan, said the UNICEF report on child
survival crisis is based on stories of individuals,
and the rates in some cases included abortions
and childbirth at home, which in some cases brought
Poghosyan added, though, that there are concerns
about conditions in the republic's maternity hospitals,
and admitted that record-keeping is poor. He further
pledged that: "The Ministry of Health will
take measures to reduce the number of children
born at home and will spend more financing to
improve the quality of service to mothers and
Armenian doctors attribute the high rate of infant
deaths to poverty, poor maternal health and poor
health care service.
"All women . . .only start to take care
of their health when they are pregnant,"
says gynecologist Ephrosia Nahapetyan, the head
of Woman's Reproductive Health Department of Policlinic
No 8. "In many cases the problems they have
were possible to prevent or avoid, if they and
their husbands had visited doctors before pregnancy."
Ephrosia Nahapetyan says women should start
to take care of their health before they get
As for the information about Armenia's underreporting
of infant death Nahapetyan attributes it to simple
"When we speak about infant death we have
to divide them into three groups," she says.
"Prenatal period ranges from the 28th week
of pregnancy to the 7th day after birth. In 2001
in Armenia the studies of the Health Ministry
showed a prenatal mortality rate of 15 deaths
per 1,000 live births. And this is the official
and correct statistics.
Nahapetyan says that the early period is till
one month of life, and then the infant death which
last till one year of life.
The gap in figures could be a hold-over from
Communist times, when hospitals and medical staffs
faced penalties if they reported an increase in
Most infant deaths are preventable according
to the report, which was produced by UNICEF's
Innocenti Research Center in Florence
The Social Monitor is an annual regional report
examining the well being of children in the transition
countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Commonwealth
of Independent States.