New Strategy, More Funding Needed To Meet Maternal, Child Health MDGs, Report Says

“Dozens of countries are unlikely to meet” the Millennium Development Goal targets related to maternal and child health without a new strategy and an additional $20 billion each year, according to a report released Tuesday, the Canadian Press reports (Lederer, 4/14).

The analysis – prepared by Countdown to 2015, an international scientific advocacy group – “shows that an estimated 350,000-500,000 women still die in childbirth each year, 3.6 million newborns fail to survive the first month, and an additional 5.2 million children die before the age of five,” according to a press release from the The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) – a group hosted by the WHO. “Despite significant advances over the past decades,” the report finds that “progress has lagged mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia where an estimated 82 percent of maternal, newborn, and child deaths take place” (4/13). 

Though “countries have almost doubled their donations for maternal, newborn and child health in recent years,” there’s a shortfall of about $20 billion for each year between 2011 and 2015, according to the report, the Canadian Press writes.

“According to UNICEF, 135 countries have child mortality rates of less than 40 per 1,000 live births or have a rate of reduction sufficient to meet the U.N. goal, but 39 show insufficient progress and 18 show no progress or a worsening of child mortality. … If the funding gap was filled by 2015, the study found the lives of up to 1 million women, 4.5 million newborn babies and 6.5 million children aged 1 month to 5 years would be saved,” according to the news service.

The report was “released on the eve of a press conference by [U.N.] Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to kick off a new global initiative on reproductive, maternal and newborn health,” the Canadian Press notes (4/14). Public health experts and six world leaders, who are in the U.S. for the Nuclear Security Summit, are set to meet this week in New York “to map a strategy for further reducing maternal and child mortality,” the Washington Post reports (Brown, 4/14).

“This is a multi-layered problem that can be addressed with a combination of many, very simple interventions,” according to Flavia Bustreo, director of (PMNCH), which is comprised of more than 300 groups. Zulfiqar Bhutta of Pakistan’s Aga Khan University, a co-chair of Countdown to 2015, said that “seamless” ongoing care is needed. Bhutta said care should include breast feeding, hand washing, childhood immunizations, skilled attendants at births and family planning, the Canadian Press writes (4/14).

Lancet Editor Says He Was Asked To Hold Study Findings

In an article about a recent Lancet study, which found that maternal deaths worldwide decreased from more than 500,000 in 1980 to an estimated 342,900 in 2008, the New York Times reports on issues that have arisen because the findings “challenge the prevailing view of maternal mortality as an intractable problem that has defied every effort to solve it.”

According to the newspaper, “some advocates for women’s health tried to pressure The Lancet into delaying publication of the new findings, fearing that good news would detract from the urgency of their cause, [Richard] Horton, [the journal’s editor,] said in a telephone interview.” Horton said, “I think this is one of those instances when science and advocacy can conflict,” adding that some advocates wanted the information held until after some maternal and child health meetings had occurred.

“People who have spent many years committed to the issue of maternal health were understandably worried that these figures could divert attention from an issue that they care passionately about,” Horton said. “But my feeling is that they are misguided in their view that this would be damaging. My view is that actually these numbers help their cause, not hinder it.”

According to the newspaper, Horton “said the new study was based on more and better data, and more sophisticated statistical methods than were used in a previous analysis by a different research team that estimated more deaths, 535,900 in 2005. The authors of the earlier analysis, published in The Lancet, in 2007, included researchers from Unicef, Harvard, the World Bank, the World Health Organization and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. The World Health Organization still reports about half a million maternal deaths a year, but is expected to issue new statistics of its own this year.”

UNICEF had no comment on the findings, a spokesperson for the organization said. WHO officials did not respond to messages. The article includes comments from other experts (Grady, 4/13).

The KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report summarized news and information on global health policy from hundreds of sources, from May 2009 through December 2020. All summaries are archived and available via search.

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