MATERNAL & CHILD MORTALITY – Preventing maternal and child mortality: WHO Resolution must galvanise action to tackle the unacceptable weight of preventable death  

Image: 77th WHO Assembly 2024 (

Global progress on improving maternal, newborn, and child survival has stalled. Many regions of the world continue to experience persistently high rates of maternal and child mortality, and despite improvements between 2000 and 2015, progress is now stagnating. The combination of ongoing and new conflicts, climate change, and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic create a perfect storm to drive back any gains that might have been made during the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) era.

The global community is off track from our targets for reducing maternal mortality (SDG 3.1) and ending preventable deaths of newborns and children younger than 5 years (SDG 3.2). Globally, 287,000 women died from a maternal cause in 2020, averaging 223 deaths of mothers for each livebirth. For children younger than 5 years, 4·9 million died globally in 2022, 2·3 million of these in the first month of life. In addition, almost 1·9 million babies were stillborn in 2021.

The stark reality is that 46 countries are projected to have a ratio greater than 140 maternal deaths per 100 000 livebirths by 2030, 59 countries will miss the SDG target for mortality for those younger than 5 years, and even more—64 countries—will miss the neonatal mortality target.

The tragedy is that so many of these deaths are preventable. More than 70% of maternal deaths are due to obstetric causes including hypertension, sepsis, unsafe abortion, and embolism. As for mortality for those younger than 5 years, prematurity is the leading cause, while birth trauma and asphyxia, acute respiratory infections, malaria, diarrhoea, and congenital anomalies are among the top causes. It is an indictment of the global health community that we know these facts and have done very little about them. There is a myriad of approaches that could be tailor-made for each challenge, but the political will to do so has been lost.

This is why the World Health Assembly Resolution on maternal, newborn, and child health is crucial. Initiated by Somalia, co-sponsored by Botswana, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Lebanon, Nigeria, Paraguay, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Tanzania, the Resolution is going through consultation, with growing support from other member states, and we, as Ministers of Health, consider it to be essential to future progress in maternal and child survival. [Note: The resolution was passed during the Assembly.]

SOURCE: IPP Media, by Ali Hajji Adam, Minister for Health of the Federal Republic of Somalia and Mekdes Daba, Minister for Health of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. 22 May 2024

This article was first published in The Lancet on 20 May 2024.