VIENTIANE， Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- Lao Ministry of Health is promoting a free delivery scheme to encourage more rural women to give birth at healthcare centers after finding that about 5 percent of women deliver their babies in a secluded area outside their house.
Even though the health service network reaches more than 90 percent of the country， some women of Khmu ethnic group in Sekong， Salavan and Attapeu provinces in southern Laos still give birth without any help from a health worker， said Phath Keungsaneth， Director General of the Hygiene and Health Promotion Department under Lao Ministry of Health on Thursday.
Superstitious beliefs do not allow women to give birth at home. Instead they must deliver their babies alone in a temporary shelter built in nearby woods and made of plastic bags or leaves.
"It is a challenge for us to reduce the death rate of mothers and infants over the next three years. But we want to reduce this practice as much as possible by 2020，" Phath was quoted by state-run Vientiane Times， adding that these women run a high risk of dying during childbirth， especially if the baby is in an abnormal position or the placenta remains inside the womb.
To tackle the problem， the ministry is continuing to promote its free delivery scheme in the hope of encouraging all women to have check-ups during the course of their pregnancy. The program also includes free post-natal check-ups. In addition， health departments throughout the country are collecting figures on the number of pregnant women in their local community.
The government has built delivery houses for mothers-to-be in every village where superstitious beliefs are still upheld. Most of these houses are built close to dispensaries.
According to the Ministry of Health's survey， the death rate of birthing mothers in Laos is 206 out of every 100，000 births. The death rate of children under one year is 45 out of every 1，000 live births， and for children under five it is 70 out of every 1，000 live births.