Expectant mothers in Kiribati will benefit from better access to specialised medical care when a new Australian funded maternity ward opens at Betio Hospital later this year.
Speaking today at a ground-breaking ceremony at the hospital, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Richard Marles said the new ward would make a real difference to the lives of women who currently have to travel nearly an hour to the closest maternal health care facility.
"This maternity ward will support more than 1200 women from Betio and the surrounding region each year and, by providing health care when and where it is needed, it will help save lives," Mr Marles said.
According to UNICEF, the neonatal death rate in Kiribati is 19 for every 1000 babies born and another 20 do not survive beyond the age of one.
Mr Marles said Australia was also funding specialised medical equipment for the ward, including beds, theatre lights and baby warmers for tests and resuscitation.
"This equipment will provide further life-saving assistance to the women and young infants in Kiribati and is part of Australia’s $30 million aid program to Kiribati in 2012-13."
Mr Marles said Australia was committed to reducing the number of women and children that die across the world from largely preventable complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.
"Investing in the lives of mothers and their children saves money, increases productivity and promotes social stability," Mr Marles said.
Australia plans to spend at least $1.6 billion to improve the health of women and children across the world from 2010 to 2015.
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