A report on child and maternal mortality released at the Countdown to 2015 conference in Cape Town, South Africa this week delivered an entwined mesh of good news and bad, hopeful gains and heart-wrenching shortfalls.
Jointly authored by a broad coalition that includes UNICEF, the World Health Organization and many other groups, the report found that although there have been some strides in providing vaccinations, insecticide-treated bed nets and other interventions, the majority of countries with high child and maternal mortality rates were failing to provide vital health services to most women and children.”Tracking Progress in Maternal, Newborn and Child Survival,” which was published this month in a special issue of the British medical journal The Lancet, gauges the coverage of important interventions that have been proven to save lives.
Only 16 out of 68 developing countries that account for 97 percent of maternal and child deaths worldwide are on track to meet Millennium Development Goal 4“which is to reduce by two-thirds the mortality rate of children under five by 2015.
The report stressed that closing such a yawning gap will require “radical changes to the scale and scope of effective strategies.”
Background note: Each year, four million babies die in their first month of life, accounting for nearly 40 percent of all under-five deaths. Also every year, half a million women die in childbirth or from complications during pregnancy. The Countdown report cited a figure that grimly links these two stark stats: about half of women in the 68 priority countries undergo childbirth without skilled care or emergency obstetric services.
Funding from donor governments and organizations for maternal, newborn and child health programs, has increased, rising from $2.1 billion in 2003 to $3.5 billion in 2006. But the report’s authors cautioned that that amount, while significant, “remains far below” the total funding needs of women and children in the 68 countries.
UNICEF has been deeply involved in many efforts to save mothers and their children. One is the fight against maternal and neonatal tetanus. The U.S. Fund has partnered with Pampers, through the “One Pack = One Vaccine” program, to protect mothers and babies from this preventable disease.
Want to help make this happen? Consider making a donation here.