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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs