Maternal Health Task Force

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Current Issue of the Lancet: A Focus on Progress Toward MDG 4 and 5

In the comment section of the latest issue of the Lancet, several articles discuss current progress toward improving the health of women and children.

The authors of Building a future for women and children offer interesting insight into the fourth report of Countdown (to be launched on June 13th, 2012):

The 2012 report shows that substantial progress has been made since 1990. As of 2010, the number of maternal deaths has declined by almost half and the number of child deaths has declined by over a third. But this reduction is not enough, relative to what can be achieved. Progress in most Countdown countries still falls short of the rate of decline required to reach MDG 4 and MDG 5, unless progress is greatly accelerated in the next 3 years.

Countdown focuses on tracking coverage of life-saving interventions. Here as well, progress has been mixed. A few countries, such as Bangladesh, have made consistent gains in coverage for several interventions across the continuum of care, and are on track to achieve both MDG 4 and MDG 5. In most countries, however, progress is patchy. High coverage levels for vaccines (over 80% on average across all Countdown countries) and rapid progress in distribution of insecticide-treated bednets show what is possible with substantial political commitment and financial resources. Progress is much slower for skilled attendance at birth and case-management interventions that require a strong health system…

Read the full article here.

The authors of Keeping promises for women and children discuss commitments made by a range of stakeholders, including donors, countries, multilateral agencies, the private sector, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), health-care professional associations, and academic and training institutions to improve the health of women and children:

The report showed that major contributions have been leveraged from the 49 low-income, high-burden countries. 44 countries have made commitments with almost half making explicit pledges to increase government health spending, with an estimated value of US$10 billion specifically to benefit women’s and children’s health. NGOs have also made pledges that account for about 12% of the total financial commitments. In May, 2011, the financial commitments were worth more than US$43 billion. With additional commitments made in Sept, 2011, the total is now more than US$50 billion.4 This is a remarkable achievement. Furthermore, this figure includes only commitments expressed in financial terms, and therefore underestimates the total value. Defining how much is new and additional funding was beyond the remit of this report and will require a robust and clearly communicated analysis agreed by stakeholders.

In addition to the financial pledges, there were policy and service commitments that were not quantified financially, but which are important in terms of financial investment and for health outcomes. Four-fifths of stakeholders made policy commitments, including removing user fees and promoting gender empowerment, whilst a similar number made commitments to strengthen service delivery, including support to increase the number of skilled birth attendants and midwives…

Read the full article here.

More from the Lancet comment section on the health of newborns and children:

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