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Russia's infant mortality on the decrease

MOSCOW, November 14 (RIA Novosti) - The rate of infant mortality in Russia is expected to fall to 10.8% in 2006, down from last year's 11.5% and the 11.2% expected this year, a senior Health Ministry official said Monday.

"Russia has seen a 59.6% decline in infant mortality in the past decade," said Nikolai Volodin, head of the ministry's pharmaceutical industry department. He was speaking to a gathering of Russian neonatal specialists who provide care for children from birth through 12 months of age.

Volodin said the recent decline was largely due to the rapidly increasing number of neonatal centers, which this year reached 126, a more than ten-fold increase on 12 in 1999. But he said Russian neonatal care providers still had a long way to go in terms of surgical operations and ambulance services.

Volodin also raised concerns over the fact that 27-30% of Russian newborns suffered from congenital diseases.

Addressing the same gathering, Infancy and Maternity Department Head Olga Sharapova reported that 7 in every 10 Russian newborns had health disorders and every 12th baby was born underweight.