Countdown to 2015 becomes Countdown to 2030

By Sarah Hodin, Project Coordinator II, Women and Health Initiative, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

This post originally appeared on the Maternal Health Task Force blog. 

CountdownCountdown to 2015 for Maternal, Newborn and Child Survival (“Countdown”) was established in 2005 in response to The Lancet Child Survival Series with the goal of monitoring countries’ progress toward achieving Millennium Development Goals 4 (reduce child mortality) and 5 (improve maternal health) by 2015. Countdown is led by a team of multi-disciplinary leaders in the maternal and child health field, including researchers, governments, international agencies, professional organizations and other stakeholders. Now that the world has adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Countdown has extended its work to monitor progress toward achieving SDG 3 (ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages) by 2030. Continue reading “Countdown to 2015 becomes Countdown to 2030”

Global Leaders in Maternal and Newborn Health: Dr. Zulfiqar Bhutta (Canada and Pakistan)

By Kayla McGowan, Project Coordinator, Women and Health Initiative, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

This article originally appeared on the Maternal Health Task Force blog.

Zulfiqar_BhuttaIn July 2016, 35 global leaders in maternal newborn health gathered for the second annual Safe Mothers and Newborns Leadership Workshop (SMNLW) hosted by the Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF), the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) and The Aga Kahn University, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The participants represented 26 countries from five continents.

SMNLW participant Dr. Zulfiqar A. Bhutta is the Robert Harding Inaugural Chair in Global Child Health at The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Co-Director of the SickKids Centre for Global Child Health and the Founding Director of the Center of Excellence in Women and Child Health, at the Aga Khan University, unique joint appointments. He also holds adjunct professorships at several leading Universities globally including the Schools of Public Health at Johns Hopkins (Baltimore), Tufts University (Boston), Boston University School of Public Health, University of Alberta as well as the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. He is a designated Distinguished National Professor of the Government of Pakistan and was the Founding Chair of the National Research Ethics Committee of the Government of Pakistan from 2003-2014. Continue reading “Global Leaders in Maternal and Newborn Health: Dr. Zulfiqar Bhutta (Canada and Pakistan)”

Keeping it real: Accountability for women’s, children’s, and adolescents’ health during the SDG era

“It’s important we ask women what’s actually happening on the ground. After all these strategies and initiatives, women are still giving birth on the floor. And they have to get their own water!” said Caroline Maposhere, a Zimbabwean nurse-midwife and civil society advocate, from the floor of the 5th Annual Breakfast for Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health, September 18.

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Caroline Maposhere shares her experience working as a midwife in Zimbabwe. (Photo by J. Cook Photography)

Continue reading “Keeping it real: Accountability for women’s, children’s, and adolescents’ health during the SDG era”

VIDEO- Countdown to 2015: A decade of tracking progress for maternal, newborn, and child survival

This new video looks at the past and to the future of Countdown to 2015, a global movement of academics, governments, international agencies, health-care professional associations, donors, and nongovernmental organizations to stimulate and support country progress towards achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Countdown launched its last report of the MDG era—a final accounting of progress and remaining gaps in the 75 countries that have more than 95% of all maternal, newborn and child deaths—at the Global Maternal Newborn Health Conference in Mexico City.

FCI is proud to be the co-lead communications and advocacy partner in Countdown to 2015.

A Decade of Tracking Progress for Maternal, Newborn and Child Survival: Lessons from Countdown to 2015 for monitoring and accountability in the SDG era

By Zulfiqar A. Bhutta and Mickey Chopra

Zulfiqar Bhutta, of the Centre for Global Child Health, Hospital for Sick Children (Canada) and Aga Khan University (Pakistan), and Mickey Chopra, of The World Bank, are co-chairs of Countdown to 2015. This article originally appeared on the Maternal Health Task Force blog as part of a series for the Global Maternal and Newborn Health Conference, October 2015 in Mexico City.

‘Ten years from now, in 2015,’ said the opening line of the first Countdown to 2015 report, published in 2005, ‘the governments of the world will meet to assess if we have achieved the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the most widely ratified set of development goals ever, signed onto by every country in the world.’

Continue reading “A Decade of Tracking Progress for Maternal, Newborn and Child Survival: Lessons from Countdown to 2015 for monitoring and accountability in the SDG era”

UNGA week shows maternal and newborn health are central to development challenges

Amy Boldosser-Boesch is the Interim President and CEO at Family Care International. This article originally appeared on the Healthy Newborn Network (HNN) blog.  

CD cover 2This year’s UN General Assembly was full of high-profile moments that reinforced the need for investment and action to improve reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH): the launch of a Global Financing Facility to Advance Women’s and Children’s Health; the release of reports tracking stakeholders’ fulfillment of commitments to Every Woman Every Child; new data on maternal, newborn and child survival from Countdown to 2015; and a plethora of side events focusing on strategies and country progress toward MDGs 4 and 5. For Family Care International, which advocates for improved reproductive, maternal, and newborn health, this unprecedented level of attention to women’s and children’s health is a welcome sign that our advocacy is having an impact, and that global commitment to ending all preventable maternal and child deaths is stronger than ever.

RMNCH was a key theme in many other important discussions during the week, demonstrating the centrality of the health of mothers and newborns to a range of development challenges.

  • Events began with a Climate Summit that brought together leaders from more than 120 countries. The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health noted during the Summit that “women and children are the most vulnerable to the effects of a changing climate, and those who are more likely to suffer and die from problems such as diarrhoea, undernutrition, malaria, and from the harmful effects of extreme weather events such as floods or drought.”
  • There was a special session to review progress towards achieving the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action. The ICPD agenda highlights the importance of ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights and the importance of quality and accessible maternal health care, recognizing that healthy girls and women can choose to become healthy moms of healthy babies.
  • The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting where President Obama called for swift action on the Ebola epidemic that is destroying lives and decimating African health systems. This crisis highlights already-fragile health systems that lack sufficient health workers, supplies, and essential medicines–the same failures that contribute to maternal and newborn mortality. A recent news story details how pregnant women who are not infected with Ebola risk dying in West Africa due to lack of access to maternal health services, and the same risk exists for newborns and young children. The loss of skilled healthworkers, particularly midwives, could have enormous long term impacts on the ability of women, newborns and children to access life-saving care.
  • Finally, the UNGA week included high-level meetings on humanitarian crises in Syria, South Sudan and many other countries. According to the State of the World’s Mothers 2014 report, more than half of all maternal and child deaths occur in crisis-affected places. Discussions of humanitarian response in crisis settings included recognition of the disproportionate impact on women and children of violence, including gender-based violence, displacement, lack of access to food and lack of access to crucial maternal health services and early interventions for newborns. These crises and fragile health systems make achieving the Every Newborn Action Plan recommendations on ensuring quality care for mothers and newborns during labor, childbirth and the first week of life more difficult, but also more critical.

While this long list of world crisis may seem overwhelming, there is some good news on maternal, newborn and child survival. As the UN Secretary-General reminded us, the world is reducing deaths of children under the age of five faster than at any time in the past two decades and significant declines in maternal mortality have occurred in the past 10 years. As the world works together to shape the post-2015 development goals, these experiences during UNGA show that the new agenda must prioritize continuing to address maternal, newborn and child mortality which is linked to many of the world’s pressing development challenges, including poverty. As a recent editorial in The Lancet says, “As governments slowly come to an agreement about development priorities post-2015, it is clear that maternal and newborn health will be essential foundations of any vision for sustainable development between 2015 and 2030.”

Women’s Lives Matter: The impact of a maternal death on families and communities

The sudden death of a woman from largely preventable causes during pregnancy or childbirth is a terrible injustice that comes at a very high cost. Her death is not an isolated event, but one that has devastating repercussions on her newborn baby (if it survives), her children, husband, parents, other relatives, and community members.

On October 7th, 2014, FCI will join with the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) to host a live webcast to explore new research documenting the dramatic economic and social impacts of a woman’s death during pregnancy or childbirth. We will feature new findings from Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi and South Africa, which advocates can use to argue for efforts to save the lives of nearly 300,000 women who die each year from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes, almost all of which are preventable.Women's Lives Matter_7Oct2014 promo graphic

A mother’s death, tragic in its own right, impacts her family’s financial stability and her children’s health, education, and future opportunities. According to the Kenya study we conducted with ICRW and the KEMRI-CDC Research and Public Health Collaboration, when a mother dies in or around childbirth, her newborn baby is unlikely to survive. Surviving children are often forced to quit school or if they continue their studies, they become distracted from grief or new household responsibilities. Also, when a woman dies, funeral costs present a crippling hardship to her family, while the loss of a productive member disrupts the family’s livelihood.

The studies conducted by the FXB Center also revealed increased child mortality. Qualitative research illustrated a link between maternal mortality and the survival, health, and well-being of children. In Tanzania, for example, the FXB Center’s researchers found that children whose mothers had died during pregnancy or childbirth have a higher risk of being undernourished.  The loss of a mother, the central figure responsible for the care and education of her children, often results in the dissolution of her family.

Although countries have made great strides to improve maternal health, too many countries still have a high burden of maternal death. The most recent Countdown to 2015 report noted that of the 75 Countdown countries, which together account for more than 95% of all maternal, newborn, and child deaths, half still have high maternal mortality ratios (300–499 deaths per 100,000 live births), and 16 countries—all of them in Africa—have a very high maternal mortality ratio (500 or more deaths per 100,000 live births). The studies that will be presented in this webinar provide urgently-needed evidence that advocates can use to persuade governments, donors, and policy makers that investments in women’s health and maternal health are also investments in newborns and children, in stable families, in education and community development, in stronger national economies and, ultimately, in sustainable development. As the report, Investing in Women’s Reproductive Health, notes:

[I]nvestments in reproductive health are a major missed opportunity for development. Effective and affordable interventions are available to improve reproductive health outcomes in developing countries, and the challenge is less about identifying these interventions but rather in implementing and sustaining policies to put proven packages of interventions and reforms into practice.

Pregnancy and childbirth should never cost a woman her life. But this research shows that the true price of a maternal death is even higher than that. It is a premium her family will continue to pay long after she’s gone.

The live webcast will include the following panelists:

  • Dr. Ana Langer (moderator), Director of the Women and Health Initiative
  • Alicia ElyYamin, Lecturer on Global Health, Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard School of Public Health; and Policy Director, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights
  • Rohini Prabha Pande, Lead Researcher on A Price Too High to Bear, Independent Consultant on Gender and Health
  • Jeni Klugman, Author of Investing in Women’s Reproductive Health (2013) and lead author, Voice and Agency (2014)
  • Amy Boldosser-Boesch, Interim President and CEO, Family Care International

Please join us on October 7, 2:30 – 3:30 PM! View the webcast live and submit your questions to the panel in real time: bit.ly/WomensLivesMatter