Mothers and their children are the most vulnerable members of any society. Globally, more than 7.6 million children die of preventable causes before the age of five*. They die mostly of diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia - diseases that are entirely preventable.
The numbers are chilling. Every four seconds a child under five dies from a largely preventable disease like pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria. Babies account for 40 percent of these deaths, with over 3 million newborns dying on the day they are born or within their first 28 days of life. Almost all of these deaths - 99% - occur in the developing world; in countries where healthcare isn't given the priority of attention it needs.
And it’s not only children. Almost 300,000 mothers die each year from complications during pregnancy or childbirth. Losing a mother has a dramatic effect on the health of a child. A child whose mother dies is 10 times more likely to die before their fifth birthday.
The main causes of maternal death are severe bleeding (haemorrhage), prolonged or obstructed labour, high blood pressure (eclampsia) and infections. Adolescent girls, particularly child brides, are at greatest risk of death because their bodies are not yet fully mature for childbirth.
We have the solutions!
Women and children do not have to die unnecessarily. We have the solutions to save lives. From World Vision’s work in over 90 countries, we have seen that family and community care, supported by an effective health system, can dramatically reduce maternal and child mortality.
Proven, cost-effective interventions exist that can reduce child deaths by 65 percent and maternal deaths by 80 percent. These solutions include:
• Immunisation against early childhood diseases like pneumonia and measles
• Insecticide-treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria
• Exclusive breastfeeding (which means only feeding a newborn breast milk for the first six months of life) to improve nutrition and immune response
• Oral rehydration (a sugar, salt and clean water mix) to help prevent death from diarrhoea
• Skilled birth attendants, such as midwives, to assist women during pregnancy and childbirth
• Access to nutritious food and provision of micronutrients (i.e. Vitamin A, iron)
• Access to clean water and improved hygiene
As well as increasing coverage of these key interventions at the family and community level, health systems need to be strengthened so there are functioning hospitals with life-saving drugs and medical equipment and skilled health workers at their core.
Barriers to accessing hospital care must also be reduced such as providing free healthcare or health insurance schemes for poor families, and improving roads, transport and communication systems.
It is only a lack of political will holding up the funding for the solutions we know will save the lives of millions of children and countless women. We must push world leaders to act now!
When world leaders hear the call for change from millions of people, it will be difficult to ignore.