Global progress in reducing maternal and newborn deaths has stagnated since 2015 (or for eight years), the United Nations (UN) revealed in a report, citing decrease in investments in maternal and newborn health as the reason.
According to the UN report, globally, more than 4.5 million women and babies die every year during pregnancy, childbirth or the first weeks after birth. This means one pregnant woman, mother orc baby dies every 7 seconds. Unfortunately, most of these deaths result from preventable or treatable causes.
Dr Anshu Banerjee, Director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing at WHO, also expressed concern that deaths of pregnant women and newborns continue at unacceptably high rates worldwide, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic which disrupted the critical health services.
He emphasized that more and smarter investments in primary healthcare are needed urgently to ensure that every woman and baby has the best chance of health and survival.
The report "Improving maternal and newborn health and survival and reducing stillbirth" was released on the WHO official site on May 9.
Causes and risk factors of maternal and newborn deaths
Globally, around 290,000 maternal deaths, 1.9 million stillbirths, and a staggering 2.3 million newborn deaths (babies who die in the first month of life) occur each year, according to the UN report.
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The report highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic, rising poverty, and worsening humanitarian crises have intensified pressures on already overstretched maternity and newborn health services, resulting in reduced funding for maternal and newborn health.
Steven Lauwerier, UNICEF Director of Health, pointed out that babies, children and women who were already exposed to threats to their well-being are facing the heaviest consequences of decreased spending since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are some factors that are contributing to maternal and newborn deaths worldwide.
Prematurity is the leading cause of all under-five deaths globally, but less than a third of countries have sufficient newborn care units to treat small and sick babies.
Most emergency childbirth facilities in sub-Saharan Africa lack essential resources .
Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia have the greatest burden of newborn and maternal deaths. However, fewer than 60 per cent of women in these regions receive even four, of WHO's recommended eight, antenatal checks.
Dr Julitta Onabanjo, Director of the Technical Division at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), cited socio-economic inequalities, discrimination, poverty and injustice as factors leading to poor maternal health outcomes and the urgent need to address these issues.