MDGs on Maternal and Child Survival Left “Unfulfilled,” says Countdown to 2015

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 21 2015 (IPS) - Though maternal and child survival have improved significantly during the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) era, its corresponding goals remain mostly unfulfilled, according to a new study by ‘Countdown to 2015’.

A coalition of academics, governments, and international organizations, including UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), Countdown to 2015 released its publication measuring progress on maternal, newborn, and child survival under MDGs.

Launched during the Global Maternal and Newborn Health Conference in Mexico City on Oct. 19, the ‘Decade of Tracking Progress for Maternal, Newborn and Child Survival’ includes reports from 75 key countries, which together accounted for more than 95 percent of the world’s maternal, newborn, and child deaths.

The report revealed a significant change in under-five mortality and maternal mortality which, since 1990, have been reduced by half.

Almost half of the Countdown countries that surpassed defined threshold levels of child or maternal mortality have “graduated”, succeeding to reduce mortality levels below threshold levels.

However, the report stated that MDGs 4 and 5, which aimed to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health by 2015 respectively, have not been achieved.

“Alongside these successes lies a large portfolio of unfinished business—of unintended pregnancies, babies born too soon, children unvaccinated and chronically malnourished and illnesses untreated; of vast inequities that deprive people of basic health services; of millions upon millions of preventable deaths,” said Chair of the Board of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Graça Machel.

Newborn survival, child nutrition, and coverage continue to be key challenges. According to WHO, almost 6 million children under the age of 5 have died around the world in 2015, accounting for 16,000 deaths per day. Of this, newborns make up 45 percent of deaths.

Almost half of all child deaths can be attributed to malnutrition and undernutrition. In more than half of the Countdown countries, the report found that stunting affected 30 percent of children under 5 years old.

Despite an almost 50 percent reduction, maternal mortality also persists in developing regions. Rates have slowed, declining by only 2.6 percent per year, far from the 5.5 percent needed to achieve MDG 5. Most maternal deaths between 2003 and 2009 were due to haemorrhage and hypertensive disorders.

These deaths could have been easily prevented with access to simple, affordable interventions linked to nutrition and antenatal-postnatal care. However, many interventions fail to reach one third or more women and children who need them, the report revealed.

Access to family planning has also been limited in many countries, contributing to unsafe pregnancies and/or abortions and reduced empowerment for women.

Lessons learned during the MDGs around child and maternal mortality will be important to the success of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the report said.

“Countdown to 2015 has been counting down the days and years to the present moment…we count them because every life counts and no one should left behind,” Machel remarked.

Among the 17 goals, SDGs have 169 targets to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio, end preventable deaths of newborns and children under the age of 5, and ensure access to sexual and reproductive health services.

However, Countdown to 2015 expressed concern over the SDG Agenda’s ability to conduct monitoring and ensure accountability.

“The very large number of goals and targets in the Sustainable Development Goals framework could detract from a sustained and accelerated focus on reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, leaving many countries short of funds, particularly those that depend heavily on donors,” the report noted.

The report revealed that only 4 out of the 75 Countdown countries—Cambodia, Eritrea, Nepal and Rwanda– will achieve both MDGs 4 and 5.


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