This year, 2015, may eventually be recognised as a turning point in global efforts to improve the health of women, children and adolescents.
In September the United Nations General Assembly meets in New York to adopt a new sustainable development agenda to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire at the end of this year. It includes a new approach to advancing the health and life chances of the most vulnerable women, children and adolescents, based on the best evidence of what works (Global Strategy 2.0).
In the UK and the rest of the developed world we take high standards of antenatal, perinatal and postnatal care for granted. We assume that mothers and their babies will almost always survive childbirth, and will usually thrive afterwards.
That is not so in the world’s poorest countries. According to the World Health Organization, “nearly 3 million babies die every year in their first month of life and a similar number are stillborn”. Ninety-nine per cent of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries (about 800 a day). Most of these deaths are preventable and occur because essential care and hygiene are not available for mothers and babies in the few hours or days after birth.
Although these are chronic problems, MDGs 4 & 5 (to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health) have been a focus for unprecedented improvements over the last 15 years. Globally since 1990, deaths among children under five have reduced by 49%, and among mothers by 45%.
However, progress has been uneven, with great success in some countries and little or none in others, so the development community is devising a new Global Strategy to accelerate progress in all countries. This will offer a broader approach than MDGs 4 & 5, including the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents in fragile and conflict settings.
I will be posting on the process throughout 2015 and providing links to the relevant websites.