By Asmau Ahmad
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has called for urgent action in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets, especially in reducing maternal and child mortality.
The foundation made the call in a statement on Wednesday, signed by the co-Chairs, Bill Gates and Melinda French Gate, after its seventh annual Goalkeepers Report.
The report said the world has collectively fallen short at the halfway point in achieving the United Nations SDGs.
It said that innovation and investment could fuel progress, particularly in ending global epidemic of maternal and child mortality.
The foundation highlighted new data that showed the potential of scaling up global access to seven innovations and practices that could address the leading causes of maternal and newborn deaths.
“By making new innovations accessible to those who need them most, two million additional lives can be saved by 2030 and 6.4 million lives by 2040.
“That’s two million families spared an unimaginable heartbreak and two million more people who can shape and enrich our world,” the reports said.
It noted that since 2016, progress in reducing global maternal mortality has stalled, adding that death rates in some countries, including the U.S have risen steadily.
“Though deaths of children under five have continued to decline since the mid-2010s, the first month of a newborn’s life continues to be the most dangerous, accounting for almost half of all under five deaths today.
“An estimated 74 per cent of child deaths happen during a baby’s first year,’’ it said.
In respective essays, French Gates and Gates acknowledged the global efforts between 2000 and 2015 that significantly improved the health of mothers and babies but pointed out that progress had stalled since COVID-19 pandemic.
They explained how the discovery of revolutionary information about maternal and child health in the last 10 years led to low-cost and easy-to implement innovations and practices.
According to them, this revolutionary information can prevent and treat deadly childbirth complications such as postpartum hemorrhaging, infections and maternal anemia.
They, therefore, called for immediate action to help put the world back on track to achieve the global goal of cutting the maternal mortality rate to less than 70 out of 100,000 births and newborn mortality to12 deaths per 1,000 live births by 2030.
“As is so often the case in global health, innovations aren’t making their way to the people who need them most like women in low-income countries.
“As well as black and indigenous women in high-income countries like the U.S, who are dying at three times the rate of white women. That needs to change.
“We have seen over and over again that when countries actually prioritise and invest in women’s heath, they unleash a powerful engine for progress that can reduce poverty, advance gender equality and build resilient economies.
“Over the past decade, the field of child health has advanced faster and farther than I thought I’d see in my lifetime.
“If our delivery can keep pace with our learning; if researchers can continue developing new innovations and skilled health workers can get them to every mother and child who needs them; then more babies will survive those crucial first days,” they said.
The report suggested life-saving innovations and practices that could be delivered by midwives and birth attendants in communities, such as interventions capable of reducing hemorrhage, probiotics and multiple micronutrient supplements for infants and babies.
Others are a new one-time infusion of IV iron for women that replenishes iron, antenatal corticosteroids, Azithromycin and AI-enabled portable ultrasound that empowers nurses and midwives to monitor high-risk pregnancies.