By Muhamet Brajshori
Although the number of infant deaths in Kosovo has declined in recent years, the country still tops the list of European countries in infant mortality. In 2011, 17.1 infants per 1,000 births died — a huge decrease from 2000, when the number of deaths was 29 per 1,000 births.
Pristina’s WHO office told SETimes that the high number of infant deaths in Kosovo remains a concern, due to several factors.
“Infant mortality phenomenon should be viewed broadly, not just through health and healthcare services. General welfare of children and families in Kosovo, environment, housing, and nutrition, overall level of education and health education, economic conditions such as poverty and unemployment, all contribute to infant mortality,” Sami Uka, an officer at Pristina WHO, told SETimes.
Dr Faik Hoti, the head of the information department at the Kosovo Ministry of Health, told SETimes that enormous work must be done to reduce the number of infant deaths.
“As far as health reasons go that effect infant mortality, they are foetal immaturity (32%), complications in pregnancy (29%), congenital anomalies (6%), infections (2%), and others (31%),” Hoti said.
“Causes for this level of mortality are many, but poor prenatal care, lack of preventive health services and community healing that should be offered within family medicine, poor hygiene in hospitals, individual and collective responsibility, are causes that continually must be addressed,” Uka said.
Hoti said that the health ministry approved a child health care strategy involving several measures, which will directly influence the rate of infant deaths, and reduce mortality and morbidity of the population, as its key objective.
“We adopted the strategy for child health and adolescent reproductive health by establishing a provision for basic healthcare for every newborn, management of babies born prematurely, and with low body weight; establishing a monitoring and evaluation system of care for mother and the newborn, and others,” Hoti said.
Agron Gashi, a UNICEF health and nutrition officer in Kosovo, told SETimes that the accuracy of data on infant deaths is doubtful, but more importance should be given to healthcare in Kosovo.
“Health should be a priority and increasing the budget for healthcare should be the top goal, especially for maternal and child health, as well as social care for poor families, support and education of children,” Gashi said.
According to Uka, health reform is necessary, especially strengthening family healthcare community centres, which the citizens visit first.
“Reducing infant mortality is a long and labourious process, but in comparison with European countries, of whose family we pretend to be a part of, there’s no room for complacency. We still remain at this time with countries with unacceptable levels of [infant death] indicators,” said Uka.
“Mortality remains high, but improvements were observed. Kosovo is far from the level Finland, Austria, and Switzerland, which have the lowest infant mortality in Europe, but close to the numbers in Macedonia, yet better than Turkey, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan that have a higher infant mortality from Kosovo,” Hoti said.
According to the UN Population Division from 2005 to 2010, infant deaths in Turkey were 24.02 per 1,000 births; in Albania 18.28; in Macedonia 14.72; in Serbia 11.77; in Croatia 6.06;Cyprus with 4.60, and Montenegro with 8.70.