With four years left for countries to achieve international targets for saving the lives of mothers and children, more than half of the countries around the world have reduced maternal mortality and child mortality at a fast rate.
This is contained in a report of a new analysis by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.
In 125 countries, maternal mortality has declined faster since 2000, the year that countries signed the Millennium Declaration, promising to make improvements in child and maternal health, and the progress has been particularly strong in the past five years.
Over the same period, in 106 countries, child mortality rates have declined faster between 2000 and 2011 than in the previous decade.
A release issued and signed by IHME and copied to Ghana News Agency in Accra, said the number of deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth decreased from 409,100 in 1990 to an estimated 273,500 deaths in 2011, and the number of deaths in children under the age of five fell from 11.6 million deaths to an estimated 7.2 million for the same period.
It said an estimated 31 developing countries will achieve Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4), which calls for two-thirds reduction in the child mortality rate between 1990 and 2015, and 13 developing countries will achieve Millennium Development Goal 5, which calls for three-fourths reduction in maternal mortality ratio over the same period.
Of those countries, only nine will achieve both goals: China, Egypt, Iran, Libya, Maldives, Mongolia, Peru, Syria, and Tunisia.
These findings were as the result of a study conducted by IHME titled, “Progress Towards Millennium Development Goal 4 and 5 on Maternal and Child Mortality: An Updated Systematic Analysis,” and published in The Lancet.
It said the trends indicated that efforts to educate more women, to prevent infectious diseases, and to implement other targeted health programmes in developing countries were having an impact, adding, they also showed, though, that few countries were going to achieve international targets for improving maternal and child health.
“If the world is going to achieve these goals, we need to see immediate, concerted action on the part of governments, donors, and bilateral agencies to move these trends in the right direction,” said Dr Rafael Lozano, Professor of Global Health at IHME and the paper’s lead author.
“We know that accelerated progress is possible because we are seeing it already.”
In Sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar was likely to achieve MDG 4 by 2015, whereas seven countries (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, and Botswana), have seen acceleration in the past 10 years, whereas others, including South Africa, Mexico, and Brazil, have experienced a reduced pace of decline.
Part of the decline in maternal mortality in most Sub-Saharan Africa countries was due to improved prevention and treatment efforts for HIV and AIDS, the researchers noted.
In looking for other key drivers for the mortality declines, the researchers pointed to global health programmes, such as the scale-up of insecticide-treated bed nets in countries with high malaria burden, and to country-level programmes such as the Government of India’s on-going investment in rural health clinics.
“We must not let the focus on MDGs detract us from what has been real and impressive progress with maternal and child survival, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Alan Lopez, Head of University of Queensland School of Population Health and one of the report’s co-authors.
“It is critical that this progress be maintained and that lessons learned from this success be rapidly transferred to other countries where progress has been less impressive,” the release said.