One pregnant woman or new-born dies every 7 seconds

One pregnant woman or new-born dies every 7 seconds

Global progress in reducing the premature deaths of pregnant women, mothers and babies, has flatlined for eight years because of decreasing investments in maternal and newborn health, according to UN World Health Organization (WHO) report, published on May 9.

The report showed that progress in improving survival has stagnated since 2015. It said that around 2,90,000 maternal deaths were reported each year, 1.9 million stillbirths – babies who die after 28 weeks of pregnancy – and a staggering 2.3 million newborn deaths, during in the first month of life.

The report, Improving maternal and newborn health and survival and reducing stillbirth, assesses the latest data, which have similar risk factors and causes, and tracks the provision of critical health services.


In the report, WHO says that over 4.5 million women and babies die every year during pregnancy, childbirth or the first weeks after birth, equivalent to one death happening every seven seconds. It said that all these cold have been prevented or treatable if proper care was available.

The report shows that Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia regions experienced the largest numbers of deaths.

India, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia Afghanistan and United Republic of Tanzania topped the table with highest burden. These countries accounted for 60 per cent of global maternal deaths, stillbirths, and newborn deaths, and 51% of the world’s live births.


Gains made between 2000 and 2010 were faster than they have been in the years since 2010. Global challenges posed by the COVID-19 -19 pandemic, climate change, conflicts and other emergencies, as well as cost of living increases within countries have the potential to further slow progress in this decade, warranting greater urgency and investment towards maternal and new born health targets.

According to the latest WHO survey on the pandemic’s impacts on essential health services, around 25 per cent of countries still report ongoing disruptions to vital pregnancy and postnatal care and services for sick children.

“Pregnant women and newborns continue to die at unacceptably high rates worldwide, and the COVID-19 pandemic has created further setbacks to providing them with the healthcare they need,” said Dr.Anshu Banerjee, Director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing at the World Health Organization (WHO).

“If we wish to see different results, we must do things differently. More and smarter investments in primary healthcare are needed now so that every woman and baby — no matter where they live — has the best chance of health and survival.”


Funding losses and underinvestment in primary healthcare can devastate survival prospects, the report said. Prematurity is now the leading cause of all under-five deaths globally, it said. In the worst-affected countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia, the regions with the greatest burden of newborn and maternal deaths, fewer than 60 per cent of women receive even four, of WHO’s recommended eight, antenatal checks.

“The death of any woman or young girl during pregnancy or childbirth is a serious violation of their human rights,” said Dr JulittaOnabanjo, Director of the Technical Division at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

“It also reflects the urgent need to scale-up access to quality sexual and reproductive health services as part of universal health coverage and primary health care, especially in communities where maternal mortality rates have stagnated or even risen during recent years.

We must take a human rights  and gender transformative approach to address maternal and newborn mortality and it is vital that we stamp out the underlying factors which give rise to poor maternal health outcomes like socio-economic inequalities, discrimination, poverty, and injustice”.


To increase survival rates, women and babies must have quality, affordable healthcare before, during and after childbirth, the agencies say, as well as access to family planning services.

More skilled and motivated health workers, especially midwives, are needed, alongside essential medicines and supplies, safe water, and reliable electricity. The report stresses that interventions should especially target the poorest women and those in vulnerable situations who are most likely to miss lifesaving care, including through better planning and investments.

Improving maternal and newborn health further requires addressing harmful gender norms, biases, and inequalities. Recent data show that only about 60 per cent of women aged 15-49 years make their own decisions regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Based on current trends, more than 60 countries are not set to meet the maternal, newborn, and stillborn mortality reduction targets in the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here