Nine countries commit to halve maternal,newborn deaths

Nine countries have committed to halving preventable deaths of pregnant women and newborns in their health facilities within the next 5 years.

The countries include Bangladesh, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.

They will work to improve the quality of care mothers and babies receive in their health facilities, through a new Network,  Improving Quality of Care for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, supported by WHO, UNICEF and other partners .

This Network aims to strengthen national efforts to end preventable deaths by 2030, as envisioned by the Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy for Women, Children and Adolescents’ Health.

The Countries will do that by strengthening capacity and motivation of health professionals to plan and manage quality improvement, improving data collection and increasing access to medicines, supplies, equipment and clean water.

According to Dr. Anthony Costello, Director, WHO Department of Maternal, Newborn ,Child and Adolescent Health “Every mother and infant deserves to receive the highest quality of care when they access health facilities in their communities”.

Through a global learning platform, the Quality of Care Network will build a community of health practitioners from the facility level up to develop evidence-based, yet context-specific, strategies to improve quality of care, harvest implementation ideas, and collect information and experiences about what is working.

The period around childbirth is the most critical for saving mothers and newborns, and preventing stillbirths. Most of the deaths could be prevented with quality care during pregnancy and childbirth.

However, the provision of care is uneven within and between countries, and often fails to respect the rights and dignity of those who seek it.

“Births in health facilities have increased in the past decade. Attention is now shifting from access to care to improving the quality of care so that countries can achieve the Sustainable Development Goals targets to end preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths by 2030”, Dr. Costello said.

Countries within the Network will work to improve both the provision of, and patients’ experience of health care. The eight new standards provide a quality of care framework which will help countries ensure their services are safe, effective, timely, efficient, equitable and people-centered.

According to WHO standards, countries should ensure no woman or newborn is subjected to unnecessary or harmful practices during labour, childbirth or the early postnatal period. It ensures all patients are given privacy and that their confidentiality is respected.

The first 9 countries in the Network have committed to identifying the actions they will take to improve quality of care working with partners.

To achieve this, governments will build and strengthen their national institutions, identify quality of care focal points at all levels of the health system, among other things.

Hemorrhage and hypertension account for most of maternal deaths. HIV-related illnesses also play a major role in maternal deaths. Despite impressive progress in HIV prevention and treatment for women and children, the “indirect”, AIDS-related maternal mortality is over 50 per cent in countries such as Swaziland (67 per cent), South African (60 per cent), Namibia (59 per cent), and Botswana (56 per cent).

The health and survival of newborns is linked with that of their mothers. In most of sub-Saharan Africa, neonatal mortality has seen no significant change in over a decade. Over 4 in 10 under-five deaths are among newborns up to 28 days of age.