News / Health

Uneven Progress in Reducing Global Maternal, Child Deaths

Many countries with highest mother and child death rates continue to fall short

Experts blame the lack of progress in maternal and child health on a severe shortage of doctors, nurses and midwives in the affected countries.
Experts blame the lack of progress in maternal and child health on a severe shortage of doctors, nurses and midwives in the affected countries.

Multimedia

Audio

Many countries with the highest mother and child death rates continue to fall short, a decade after pledging to improve the problem.

Substantially reducing child mortality and improving maternal health by 2015 are two of the Millennium Development Goals that United Nations member states agreed to strive for 10 years ago.

But most of the 68 countries with the highest rates of maternal and child deaths are falling short of the goal, and progress in 12 countries is slowing down.

That's the finding of a new report by a group called Countdown to 2015, a collaboration of researchers, UN agencies, governments, non-governmental organizations and others.

Shortage of skilled health workers, cost of health care to blame

The report, published in The Lancet, says one of the key reasons for the lack of progress in maternal and child health is a severe shortage of doctors, nurses and midwives.

"The countries that have made the least progress are the ones where the shortage and maldistribution of human resources has been the largest," says The World Health Organization's Flavia Bustreo, one of the report's authors.

Bustreo says only 15 of the countries have the minimum number of skilled health workers to serve the population. And in many countries, those workers are concentrated in the cities, leaving the rural areas underserved.

Another barrier is the cost of health care. "When countries basically charge out-of-pocket payments for assessing services, this has been a major impediment," says Bustreo, noting that when countries such as Brazil and Rwanda removed that impediment and provided free access to health care, they made significant improvements in child and maternal health.

Success stories

The report found 19 countries are on target to reduce child mortality by two-thirds, and progress is accelerating in 47 others. And Bustreo adds that there are examples of success from every region, from Latin America to South Asia.

"Bangladesh has been a country that, despite a very low income and very difficult situations, has managed to reduce maternal and child deaths and is on track," she says.

Child deaths are down, in part, because Bangladesh put policies in place that improved access to treatment for diarrhea and pneumonia, two major child killers. And the country has improved the rate at which girls receive lifesaving medical treatment, narrowing the gender gap.

Bustreo credits a combination of factors for the change, including outreach by community workers to improve vaccination and nutrition services, as well as women's empowerment initiatives such as micro-credit and education programs.

Global funding for maternal and child health programs doubled from 2003 to 2008, to $4 billion.

However, Bustreo says, "what we see is that still, [it] is not very well targeted in terms of the need that countries have."

She says development assistance often goes to countries that don't need it as much. And only five target countries are spending 15 percent or more of their own budgets on health.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid