A report by the United Nations (UN) shows that India leads a list of 10 countries that are responsible for 60% of global maternal deaths, stillbirths, and newborn deaths, as well as 51% of live births globally.
These 10 countries saw 4.5 million deaths in 2020-2021, consisting of 290,000 maternal deaths, 1.9 million stillbirths, and 2.3 million newborn deaths. Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia had the highest numbers of deaths, although there was variation in the pace of countries’ progress towards the global 2030 targets.
The report, which was launched at the International Maternal Newborn Health Conference, revealed that global progress in reducing deaths of pregnant women, mothers, and babies had stalled for eight years due to decreasing investments in maternal and newborn health.
Dr Anshu Banerjee, Director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing at the World Health Organisation (WHO), commented on the report’s findings. He said that the rates of pregnant women and newborns dying were “unacceptably high” worldwide and that the coronavirus pandemic had created further setbacks to providing them with the healthcare they need.
“More and smarter investments in primary healthcare are needed so that every woman and baby – no matter where they live – have the best chance of health and survival,” he said.
The report highlighted that India saw 788,000 maternal deaths, stillbirths, and neonatal deaths in 2020, a total of 4.5 million deaths globally. It also accounted for 17% of global live births, which could be a factor for a large number of maternal deaths, stillbirths, and neonatal deaths.
The other countries in the top 10 were Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and China.
Trend data showed that global progress in reducing maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths had slowed over the past decade. Gains made between 2000 and 2010 were faster than those made since 2010. The report called for an investigation into the reasons for the slower pace of progress and for action to address them.
The Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, conflicts, and cost-of-living increases in countries could further slow progress in this decade, according to the report.
The report stressed the importance of quality and affordable healthcare for women and babies before, during, and after childbirth, as well as access to family planning services.
More skilled and motivated health workers, especially midwives, were also needed alongside essential medicines and supplies, safe water, and reliable electricity. The interventions should especially target the poorest women and those in vulnerable situations who are most likely to miss out on lifesaving care, including through critical subnational planning and investments.
The report revealed the ongoing challenges faced by many countries in reducing maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths. Global progress in this regard had slowed over the past decade, and the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, conflicts, and cost-of-living increases in countries could further hinder progress.
The report called for more and smarter investments in primary healthcare and emphasized the importance of quality and affordable healthcare for women and babies before, during, and after childbirth, as well as access to family planning services. It also stressed the need for more skilled and motivated health workers, especially midwives, and for interventions targeting the poorest women and those in vulnerable situations.
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