WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION – Countries commit to recover lost progress in maternal, newborn & child survival

Alarmed by the stagnation of progress in reducing maternal and child mortality, countries today passed a critical Resolution at the World Health Assembly (WHA) committing to specific actions to prevent deaths of women, babies and children.

Annually, 287,000 women die in pregnancy or childbirth, 4.9 million children die of largely preventable causes before their 5th birthday, and there are 1.9 million stillbirths. Most of these deaths are linked to preventable or treatable conditions, and can largely be averted with access to timely, high quality health care services. Progress in reducing maternal deaths has stalled since 2016, while survival gains for newborns and young children have lost pace.

This 2024 Resolution commits to tackling the leading causes of maternal and child deaths, especially in the worst affected countries, while improving access to maternity, sexual and reproductive, and comprehensive child health services through stronger primary health care. It further highlights the need to expand access to emergency services including urgent obstetric care and small and sick newborn units, which are critical to manage complications associated with prematurity and other leading causes of newborn deaths.

The resolution emphasized that health systems must be enabled to deliver quality, safe and effective care, through well-stocked facilities, well-trained and motivated health workers, and safe water and sanitation. The Resolution also stresses the need for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care services, including family planning, that underpin women’s health.

Most maternal deaths are caused by severe bleeding, high blood pressure, pregnancy-related infections, complications from unsafe abortion, and underlying conditions that can be aggravated by pregnancy (such as HIV/AIDS and malaria). Among children under 5 years of age, the leading cause of death is now complications associated with preterm births, as well as birth trauma/asphyxia, congenital anomalies (or birth defects), and diseases like pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria.

At the current rates of progress , more than 4 out of 5 countries are likely to fall short on the Sustainable Development Goals’ maternal mortality targets, 64 countries for newborn mortality, and 59 countries for under-five child mortality. Current rates of decline in maternal mortality would need to be accelerated nine times, and for newborn and under-5 mortality four times, to achieve these targets. Member States have committed to report back on this resolution every two years.

SOURCE: WHO Bulletin, 30 May 2024