Accelerate efforts to end maternal and child mortality in South-East Asia: WHO

SEAR/PR/1634

Colombo, 6 September 2016 – Quality life-saving interventions should be further enhanced and expanded to reach all mothers, newborns and children across South-East Asia Region to end preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths, World Health Organization said today.

“Countries within the WHO South-East Asia Region have made remarkable progress in the area of maternal and child health in recent years. Between 1990 and 2015 child mortality was reduced by 64%, while maternal mortality was reduced by 69% as compared to the global average of 52% and 44% respectively. However, much remains to be done to ensure equitable access to quality services and further reduce preventable deaths,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for WHO South-East Asia Region, said.

Despite the impressive decline in maternal and child mortality, the Region could not meet Millennium Development Goals 4 & 5 to reduce maternal mortality by 75% and child mortality by 67%.

Countries can make immediate gains by expanding health workforce and training more skilled birth attendants. At present, the density of health care providers in the Region is 12.5 per 10 000 population, which is far less than the WHO recommended minimum of 44.5 per 10 000 population.

“Efforts to achieve universal health coverage by expanding access to quality services will also prove vital to ending preventable maternal, newborn and child mortality. Robust and effective maternal, perinatal and newborn death surveillance and response will further strengthen accountability mechanisms and improve quality of care.” Dr Khetrapal Singh told the Sixty-ninth Regional Committee meeting of WHO South-East Asia Region.

The Region-wide initiative to accelerate progress towards ending preventable maternal and child mortality comes in the wake of the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals and the adoption of the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016-2030). The key objectives of the Global Strategy are ‘Survive, Thrive and Transform’, which reflect aspirations to end preventable mortality, as well as to avert illnesses, ensure wellbeing, and promote a productive and empowered future.

Pledging to achieve outstanding Millennium Development Goals related to maternal and child health, health ministers of the 11 Member States resolved to ensure sustained efforts to bring the maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100 000 live births, under- five mortality to 25 per 1000 live births and the neonatal mortality rate to below 12 per 100 live births by 2030.

The Regional Committee meeting taking place in Colombo, Sri Lanka is WHO South-East Asia Region’s highest decision-making body, where health priorities, challenges and opportunities for the Region for the next twelve months are discussed and decided upon.

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