One woman or baby still dies every 11 seconds in childbirth: UN

ISLAMABAD, Sep 20 (APP):An estimated 2.8 million pregnant women and newborns — approximately one every 11 seconds — die each year worldwide, mostly from preventable causes, according to a new report on female and child mortality released jointly by two UN agencies — UNICEF and WHO.

“Around the world, birth is a joyous occasion. Yet, every 11 seconds, a birth is a family tragedy,” Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, said in a statement.

“A skilled pair of hands to help mothers and newborns around the time of birth, along with clean water, adequate nutrition, basic medicines and vaccines, can make the difference between life and death. We must do all it takes to invest in universal health coverage to save these precious lives,” she added.

In a joint appeal for all nations to do more to provide better medical care for all, health experts from WHO and UNICEF outlined several ways to help protect the 2.8 million pregnant women and newborns who die every year

Their recommendations tackle immediate and underlying problems, such as ensuring that midwives have water to wash their hands and helping teenage girls to stay in school longer, where there is less chance of them getting pregnant.

In addition, communities should have access to cheap medicines, such as oral rehydration salts used to treat diarrhoea, and “ten cent vaccines” to keep tuberculosis at bay, the UN agencies insisted.

Citing 2018 data showing that newborns – babies in their first month – accounted for around half of the 5.3 million deaths among under-fives, WHO and UNICEF also highlighted the need for other structural changes.

These include ensuring that pregnant mothers eat a sufficiently nutritious diet to stave off illnesses linked to malnutrition.

According to 2018 figures, one in 13 children in sub-Saharan Africa also died before their fifth birthday, which is 15 times more than in Europe, where the rate is one in 196.

Beyond sub-Saharan Africa, the joint WHO/UNICEF report also expressed concern about high mother and baby mortality rates linked to poverty in Southern Asia.

Taken together, both regions account for around eight in 10 of all maternal and child deaths, highlighting vast inequalities in healthcare worldwide.

“If I look to my own native country, Sweden (a woman) who travels from the highest mortality regions to the world to Sweden, she reduces her overall mortality rate by 100”, UNICEF’s Chief of Health, Dr Stefan Peterson, told journalists in Geneva.

Under global healthcare targets agreed by the international community in 2015 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 Agenda, Goal 3.2 calls for fewer than 70 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030.

“The world will fall short of this target by more than one million lives if the current pace of progress continues”, the agencies warned.

Another SDG target (3.2) urges countries to reduce deaths of babies in their first month of life, to at least 12 per 1,000 live births, and to bring down mortality among under-fives, to at least 25 per 1,000 live births.

In 2018, 121 countries had already achieved this under-five mortality rate, according to WHO, while among the remaining 74 States, 53 will need to accelerate progress to reach the SDG target on child survival by 2030.

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