AfricaHealthNewsIMNHC2023: Over 50,000 Nigerian women die yearly for maternal issues – UN report

…makes urgent call for increased investment in health, social sectors

At the ongoing International Maternal Newborn Health Conference’ (IMNHC2023) in Cape Town, South Africa, United Nations report indicate that Nigeria accounts for one in seven global maternal deaths, implying that over 50,000 Nigerian women die yearly, making the country rank as second among 10 others responsible for 60 percent of women and newborn deaths, worldwide.

According to report, the latest estimate was contained in the progress tracking report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations Fund in Population Activities (UNFPA) were launched on Tuesday at the ongoing “International Maternal Newborn Health Conference’ (IMNHC2023).

The World Health Organisation (WHO) released the report on Tuesday, titled, “Improving Maternal and Newborn Health and Survival and Reducing Stillbirth: Progress Report 2023,” which revealed Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, is currently ranked second after India.

According to the report, 788 women and children died “per thousand” in India, while 540 perished “per thousand” in Nigeria in 2020.

In the same year, India accounted for 17 percent of all maternal, neonatal, and stillbirth fatalities worldwide, whereas Nigeria accounted for just twelve percent.

The report has it that eight other countries with high maternal, neonatal, and stillbirths are Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and the United Republic of Tanzania.

The report estimates that globally, there were a combined 4.5 million maternal, and neonatal deaths and stillbirths in 2020.

“The top 10 countries with the highest-burden account for 60 percent of global maternal deaths, stillbirths, and newborn deaths, and 51 percent of the world’s live births,” the report noted.

“It is not news that every two minutes, a woman dies during pregnancy or childbirth, globally.

The new report noted that Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia are the regions experiencing the largest number of deaths, despite the variation in the pace at which countries are progressing in their efforts to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 targets.

The four-day conference, which is being hosted by the Government of South Africa and AlignMNH – a global initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), was declared open on May 8.

According to the first-ever joint Every Newborn Action Plan (ENAP) and Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality (EPMM)progress tracking report, the global progress in reducing deaths of pregnant women, mothers, and babies has flatlined for eight years due to decreasing investments in maternal and newborn health.

Dr. Anshu Banerjee, Director, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing, WHO, said, “Pregnant women and newborns continue to die at unacceptably high rates worldwide, and the coronavirus pandemic has created further setbacks to providing them with needed healthcare.”

“If we wish to see different results, we must do things differently. More and smarter investments in primary healthcare are needed so that every woman and baby – no matter where they live – have the best chance of health and survival,” Banerjee said.

Addressing media at IMNHC, Dr. Alisyn Moran, Maternal Health Lead at WHO, said maternal, and newborn mortality and stillbirths have declined since 2000, but since 2015, there has been significant plateauing of maternal mortality reduction and stillbirth reduction.

“We really need to work hard as a community to accelerate that progress so that we can achieve the SDG targets by 2030. In order to get there, we need to implement lifesaving interventions for quality antenatal, intrapartum, and postnatal care for women and newborns, and prevent stillbirths.

“We have coverage targets for antenatal, skilled birth assistant, and postnatal care by 2025. We know that the interventions need to be given along with quality and respectful care,” Moran said.

Meanwhile, the global leaders have issued an urgent call for countries to invest in health and social sectors to meet the targets for maternal and stillbirth reduction.

The experts convened to drive urgent action for the health of mothers and newborns by leading with evidence, sharing effective implementation strategies, reviewing joint progress, and nurturing collaboration and innovation.

Participants heard firsthand stories from impacted countries, communities, and women about how the current plateau in progress affects real lives at the IMNHC2023.

“It’s about accountability, and this is something that we all must take responsibility over. We work in environments where a lot of women and families are not empowered,” said Dr. Queen Dube, Chief of Health Services for the Ministry of Health Malawi and AlignMNH Steering Committee Co-chair.

New data and goals proposed by the launch of the first-ever joint ENAP-EPMM progress report, ‘Improving Maternal and Newborn Health and Survival and Reducing Stillbirth,’ showed that progress in improving survival has stagnated since 2015.

The report, which was released at the conference, detailed how 4.5 million women and babies die every year during pregnancy, childbirth, or the first weeks after birth – mostly from preventable causes.

According to the report, the findings from the report will help the community align global partnerships and investments to accelerate subnational efforts and progress at the country level.

“We need to ensure that we are not reducing investments in health and social sectors, and reorient towards primary healthcare that delivers for maternal, newborn, and child health,” said Dr. Anshu Banerjee, Director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Aging at the World Health Organisation (WHO) and AlignMNH Steering Committee Co-chair.

“By bringing services closer to the community and the people, and ensuring that they are provided with quality care, we can prevent many of the complications that we are dealing with now or identify and address them at an earlier stage.”

The conference is hosted by the Government of South Africa and AlignMNH – a global initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and in partnership with UNFPA, UNICEF, and World Bank.  Approximately 1,700 delegates from 96 countries – including 28 official country delegations – participated in more than 200 sessions focused on accelerating progress and fostering solutions for maternal and newborn health.

“To save lives, we must strengthen the quality of care – not just by investing in individuals and their skills and in commodities. But by also investing in the teams who deliver care and the systems in which they deliver it,” said USAID Assistant Administrator for Global Health Dr. Atul Gawande.

Many emerging solutions to the multi-faceted problems presented were on display at the Technical Marketplace, including innovations in mobile imaging, AI-powered ultrasounds, and new clinical interventions.

One such promising intervention called E-MOTIVE released new outcomes from a study that found accurate measures of blood loss using a simple, low-cost blood measurement drape, and applying comprehensive WHO-recommended treatments.

This resulted in a 60 percent reduction in bleeding, which means women were far less likely to die, the report noted.

“What got us here is not going to necessarily get us there. We have to continue to evolve systems and health services,” said Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Deputy Director of Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health Dr. Jeffrey Smith. “That’s why this conference is so important – because this community needs to continue to learn and evolve as we reduce mortality.”

If current trends persist, more than 60 countries are not set to meet the maternal, newborn, and stillborn mortality reduction targets in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030. Coming together at IMNHC 2023, and every two years thereafter, will mark important milestones at our current midpoint of the SDGs, the conference organisers noted.

By Uzoamaka Ikezue (Staff Reporter)

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