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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license 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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid