News / Health

Report: Millions of Maternal and Child Deaths Can Be Prevented

FILE - A mother carries her baby wrapped in a blanket in Beijing.
FILE - A mother carries her baby wrapped in a blanket in Beijing.
Lisa Schlein
The international aid agency Save the Children says millions of maternal and child deaths can be prevented by improving access to health care and other essential services. The agency’s annual State of the World’s Mothers report ranks 178 countries on how likely mothers are to survive childbirth. 
 
Save the Children reports 800 mothers and 18,000 young children die from largely preventable causes every day. It said more than half of these deaths occur in high-risk places of conflict and natural disaster.
 
The agency’s 2014 Mother’s Index Rankings of 178 countries bears this out.  Finland is the best place to be a mother, followed by other European and Western countries in the top 10.  Somalia is at the bottom, along with nine other African countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, and the Central African Republic, that rank as the worst places for maternal and child survival. 
 
For example, the report notes one Chadian woman in 15 is likely to die because of pregnancy, compared with one Swedish woman in 14,000. And, it notes, a child in Sierra Leone has one chance in five of not living until age five, compared with an Icelandic child, where the risk is one in 435.

The director of Save the Children in Geneva, Anita Bay Bundegaard, told VOA these rankings do not change much from year to year.  She said the same sub-Saharan African countries continue to appear on the bottom of the list. 
 
“They have a recent history of armed conflict. They are considered to be fragile states and many of them are also affected by recurring natural disasters… What we need to ensure in those countries are that mothers and newborns have access to high quality health care… We also need more investment in women and girls to ensure that they are better protected during emergencies,” said Bundegaard.  
 
Bundegaard agrees it is difficult for countries wracked by war, instability and extreme poverty to provide the care needed to save new mothers and young children. But, she said, it can be done if governments have the political will.
 
She cited the examples of Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Nepal, which have greatly reduced mother and child deaths through sustained political and financial commitment. All three are either in conflict or rebuilding from conflicts.
 
She said these countries also have improved access to education for girls, which protects them from getting married at an early age. She said girls who have babies at a young age are at greater risk of dying and losing their babies.
 
“It also a very simple thing like training midwives, to have a very good and high immunization coverage or it can be to remove user fees so that people do not have to pay to get access to health care.  These are some of the things that we have seen in Afghanistan, in Nepal, in Ethiopia where things are considerably changed and improved,” said Bundegaard. 
 
The report notes concerted efforts by Afghanistan and Ethiopia have reduced maternal deaths by almost two-thirds since 2000. The Mothers Index also shows that some Western countries are not doing as well as they should and are falling behind other wealthy countries.
 
It finds the United States, which is ranked 31, is among countries that have made the least progress since 2000 on maternal and child survival. It said the risk that a 15-year-old girl in the U.S. will die during her lifetime from a pregnancy-related cause has increased by over 50 percent since 2000, and American women face the same risk of maternal death as those in Iran or Romania.

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid