Child and mother mortality rates are falling globally — but not fast enough

Child deaths have decreased by nearly half and maternal deaths by over a third globally since 2000, primarily due to better access to affordable, high-quality healthcare, according to Sept. 19 report from UNICEF and the World Health Organization. 

Many countries that have successfully reduced child or maternal mortality rates focused on primary healthcare and universal coverage, with countries in Eastern and Southeastern Asia decreasing deaths among children under age 5 by 80 percent. Improved access to quality care was achieved through political investment in the health workforce and the introduction of free care for pregnant women and children.

Despite progress, a pregnant woman or newborn dies every 11 seconds, mostly from preventable causes. Estimates show vast global inequalities in mortality rates, with sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia accounting for about 80 percent of all maternal and child deaths globally. Countries experiencing turmoil or a humanitarian crisis often have weak health systems that inhibit access to lifesaving care.

"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," Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director, said in a news release.

The United Nations' goal is to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030. If the current trajectory continues, the world will fall short by more than 1 million lives.

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