Reproductive, Maternal and Child Health

Maternal healthPoor maternal, newborn and child health remains a significant problem in developing countries. Worldwide, about 800 women die daily due to complications of pregnancy and child birth and approximately 16,000 children under the age of five die every day. The primary causes of maternal death are hemorrhage, infections, complications from delivery and unsafe abortion.45 percent under-five deaths occur during the first month of life and 75 percent occur within the first year of life. Globally, the main causes of neonatal death are prematurity, asphyxia and severe infections. Children in low-income countries are nearly 18 times more likely to die before the age of five than children in high-income countries.

99 percent of maternal deaths occur in developing countries and most could have been prevented using existing, inexpensive technologies. Yet inequities abound and the poorest women remain the most likely to die. The risk of a woman in a developing country dying from a maternal-related cause during her lifetime is about 23 times higher compared to a woman living in a developed country. Many low-income countries have high rates of maternal mortality and high fertility, which are closely linked to high infant mortality and gender inequality. More than a quarter of girls and women in sub-Saharan Africa cannot access family planning services, fueling unplanned pregnancies and spreading HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Good maternal health and nutrition are important contributors to child survival. The lack of essential interventions to address these and other health conditions often contribute to indices of neonatal morbidity and mortality (including stillbirths, neonatal deaths and other adverse clinical outcomes). The highest maternal, neonatal and under-five mortality rates are in sub-Saharan Africa and in Southern Asia. Interventions and strategies for improving reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health and survival are closely related and must be provided through a continuum of care approach. When linked together and included as integrated programmes, these interventions can lower costs, promote greater efficiencies and reduce duplication of resources. However, few efforts have been made to identify synergies and integrate these interventions across the continuum of care.

Ensuring effective services for family planning, adolescent reproductive health, improved prevention and treatment of reproductive cancers and sexually transmitted infections are critical. Reducing the inequities across countries and saving more maternal and children’s lives by ending preventable deaths are important priorities.