By Emil Danielyan
The U.N. children's fund UNICEF accused on Tuesday Armenia and eight other Eastern European and Central Asian nations of underreporting their infant death rates.
Agency reports from Rome quoted UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy as saying that the countries, among them neighboring Azerbaijan and Georgia, produce “inaccurate and misleading statistics” to overestimate a major indicator of their well-being. "We have looked beyond the official statistics and talked to mothers in their own homes, and their stories reveal a child survival crisis," Bellamy said.
The UNICEF blacklist also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Romania, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. They are all faulted by the fund over the credibility of their official infant mortality rates. That is, the number of babies under 1 year of age who die during a given 12-month period for every thousand infants born alive in the same period. Official data put it at 15 in Armenia, 17 in Azerbaijan and 16 in Georgia.
However, a report by a UNICEF research center in Italy estimates the real figures in the three Caucasian states at 36, 74 and 43 respectively. The average mortality rate in Western Europe is just 4.
According to the report, the nine former Communist states do not use international standards in defining a live birth and hide the real number of infant deaths. The report urges them to urgently address the problem.
Officials at the Armenian Health Ministry could not be reached for comment.