Abu Dhabi: Among every 1,000 births, about six babies died as infants in the emirate of Abu Dhabi in 2012, senior health officials announced in the capital on Wednesday.

While this represents a significant improvement compared to just two decades ago, much can still be done to lower this infant mortality rate further and preserve the health of mothers and babies, they added.

A comprehensive care initiative to create awareness among future mothers about pre-pregnancy, antenatal and post-delivery health of the mother and baby was launched today (Wednesday) by the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD).

“In 1990, the UAE had an infant mortality rate of 14 deaths for every 1,000 births. By 2012, this rate had dropped to 7 deaths per 1,000 births. And we have managed to lower the rate in Abu Dhabi even further to 6.4 deaths per 1,000 births,” said Dr Omniyat Al Hajeri, director of public health and research at the HAAD.

“With the launch of this new campaign, we hope to increase our reach to mothers and encourage them to be healthy even before they have conceived,” she added.

The initiative, titled Enaya (which means ‘care’ in Arabic), will work with hospitals over the next few months to help them develop their own care programmes for all women of child-bearing age.

Nearly 30,000 babies are born each year across the emirate, Dr Jennifer Moore, section head of maternal and child health, told Gulf News at a press conference held to launch the Enaya campaign.

“We will first train medical professionals on how to educate their patients, and how to establish a campaign of their own regarding maternal care. In the first quarter of 2014, we will also have an Enaya Day with the collaboration of all hospitals. Our aim is to reach all women who give birth in the emirate,” she added.

According to details revealed at the conference, a survey conducted by the HAAD in 2011 showed that only 23 per cent of women took multivitamins daily before pregnancy, while 3.9 per cent took them four to six times a week and 15 per cent took them one to three times a week. These multivitamins play a big role in preventing birth defects and ensuring infant well-being.

“We want to spread this message to women, and create a culture where they understand that giving babies a healthy start to life means preparing well before getting pregnant,” explained Dr Asma Al Mannaei, manager of community health and surveillance at the HAAD.

Other survey results showed that only 40 per cent of the women polled had received counselling about the negative effects of smoking on the baby, and only 63 per cent had been advised about medication safety.

“These are some of the areas which we will focus on creating awareness about. Through efforts under Enaya, new mothers will also be taught about newborn screening programmes, home safety and the importance of breastfeeding,” Dr Asma said.