An international commitment to reduce maternal and child deaths by 2015 will not be met at the current pace unless rapid and coordinated action is taken now, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.
In establishing the Millennium Development Goals more than four years ago, the international community made a commitment to reduce maternal deaths by three quarters and child mortality by two thirds by 2015.
However, more than half a million women and 10.6 million children will continue to die each year unless essential and affordable interventions are made available, WHO said. This is despite the fact that a small set of preventive and curative interventions, such as vaccines and appropriate home care, could save more than 6 million children each year.
"Affordable and effective means to prevent death and suffering are available, but many of these interventions have yet to reach every mother and child," said Dr Shigeru Omi, Regional Director for the WHO Western Pacific Region. "Too many mothers and children are dying or suffering from the effects of ill-health, poor nutrition and inadequate health care."
- Globally, about 1 million children die each year following the deaths of their mothers. In households where a mother has died, children spend significantly less time in school compared with children from households with mothers.
- Frequent illness and malnutrition negatively affect a child's cognitive development, body size and strength.
- Not enough mothers and children are receiving existing and affordable life-saving interventions. For instance, worldwide, only 4 out of 10 children with pneumonia are treated with antibiotics.
- All women need access to high-quality delivery care if the number of maternal deaths is to be reduced dramatically.
To raise awareness of the extent of illness, suffering and death among mothers and infants, WHO is dedicating World Health Day 2005 to the plight of mothers and children.
The World Health Day's slogan, "Make every mother and child count," aims to bring home the message that there are affordable and effective interventions that can prevent death and suffering.
The health of mothers and children, and its impact on social and economic development, cannot be overstated. Said Dr Omi: "The future will be healthier and more productive for all societies if we act now to make every mother and child count."
World Health Day 2005 seeks to create momentum that compels governments, the international community, civil society and individuals to take action to improve the health and well-being of mothers and children.
Almost all deaths and illnesses of mothers and children occur in low- and middle-income countries. Within these countries, it is the poor and disadvantaged who suffer the most.
More than 70% of all maternal deaths are caused by just five factors. Of this 70%, the breakdown is as follows:
Health condition %
unsafe abortion 13
high blood pressure 12
obstructed labour 8
Preventable and treatable conditions are responsible for more than 70% of all child deaths. The 70% breaks down as follows:
Health condition %
Neonatal causes 37
post-neonatal diarrhoea 17