The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has welcomed a new campaign launched by the Angolan Government to reduce maternal and infant mortality, and encouraged authorities to ensure the necessary budget resources to improve health for women and children.The campaign focuses on strengthening the health system at the municipal level by providing improved maternal and child health-care services, as well as teaching healthy habits for mothers and children at home. A recent Angolan Government survey showed significant strides in reducing maternal and infant mortality since 2002. The rate of under-five deaths has dropped from 250 to 195 per 1,000 live births, while the maternal mortality rate decreased from 1,400 to 660 per 100,000 live births.Despite the improvements, UNICEF stated in a news release that the situation remains unacceptable, noting that the figures put Angola on par with the world’s poorest nations even though its per capita incomes are clearly higher.The agency believes the new government initiative can lead to progress, and stressed the need to improve access to effective obstetric interventions, promoting maternal practices that protect a child’s health, and ensuring that clinics have the necessary medicines and supplies. Koen Vanormelingen, UNICEF Representative in Angola and UN Resident Coordinator, highlighted the need to ensure access to skilled birth attendants across the country, which is critical to reducing maternal and neonatal mortality.UNICEF announced in June that Angola has made progress on several of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the global targets that include slashing extreme poverty, reducing maternal and child mortality rates and fighting diseases, all by 2015. Preliminary data from a Government survey had found, for example, that malnutrition had dropped from 35 to 23 per cent, while school enrolment has surged to 76 per cent. Gender parity is also close to being achieved in schools, with 98 girls for every 100 boys attending classes.At the same time, the agency noted that maternal mortality had not seen the same level of improvement as other areas, mainly because skilled attendants at birth continued to hover just below 48 per cent.In light of the new campaign, UNICEF encouraged the Government to raise the proportion of the national budget devoted to health from 6.4 per cent to 15 per cent to ensure better health for the country’s women and children. 26 August 2010The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has welcomed a new campaign launched by the Angolan Government to reduce maternal and infant mortality, and encouraged authorities to ensure the necessary budget resources to improve health for women and children.