Sunday October 20, 2019

Sub-Saharan Africa Lags Behind All Other Regions in World in Reducing Child and Maternal Mortality

Estimates by the World Health Organization and U.N. children’s fund UNICEF reveal conflict, fragile health systems, and poverty

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FILE - A woman sits beside her sick child in the pediatric ward at the general hospital in Man, western Ivory Coast, July 4, 2013. VOA

New U.N. data shows sub-Saharan Africa lags behind all other regions in the world in reducing child and maternal mortality. Estimates by the World Health Organization and U.N. children’s fund UNICEF reveal conflict, fragile health systems, and poverty are some of the factors accounting for millions of preventable child and maternal deaths.

Presenting their report Thursday in Geneva, he two U.N. agencies said since 2000, child deaths have dropped by nearly one-half and that maternal deaths are down by more than one-third, mostly due to better access to affordable, quality health services.

The new estimates, however, show 6.2 million children under the age of 15 died last year and nearly 300,000 women died of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth in 2017. The agencies report a pregnant woman or newborn dies every 11 seconds somewhere in the world, mostly of preventable causes.

Peter Salama, WHO’s executive director of universal health coverage, says women and children in sub-Saharan Africa are at higher risk of death than in all other regions.

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New U.N. data shows sub-Saharan Africa lags behind all other regions in the world in reducing child and maternal mortality. Pixabay

“In 2017, for the first time, half of all child deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. Because of increasing fertility rates, we project that number to reach more than 60 percent of all global child deaths. For maternal deaths today, two-thirds occurred in sub-Saharan Africa,” he said.

Salama says the lifetime risk of a woman dying of pregnancy-related causes is about one in 37 in Africa, compared to one in 7,800 in Australia, his home country. He says the risk of delivering a baby in countries with a stable government is far than less in countries affected by conflict.

He says countries with modest means can make progress in reducing child and maternal mortality. He cites Belarus, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Malawi and Zambia.

“It is clear one reason is they have made a heavy investment in sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health. They are choosing the right programs and they are investing accordingly in them. But that is not the whole story.  They are investing in primary health care and in universal health coverage. In short, they are investing in more comprehensive and integrated systems,” Salama said.

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The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals aim to reduce maternal mortality to less than 70 per 100,000 live births and under-five child mortality to at least 25 per 1000 live births by 2030.

WHO and UNICEF say the world must act now and invest the money needed to reduce these deaths. They warn that otherwise, 62 million children under the age of 5 will die between now and 2030, and more than a million maternal lives will be lost. (VOA)

Next Story

World’s First Female Spacewalking Team Makes History High above Earth

As NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir emerged one by one, it marked the first time in a half-century of spacewalking

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In this photo provided by NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir exits the International Space Station on Oct. 18, 2019. VOA

The world’s first female spacewalking team made history high above Earth on Friday, floating out of the International Space Station to fix a broken part of the power network.

As NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir emerged one by one, it marked the first time in a half-century of spacewalking that a woman floated out without a male crewmate.

America’s first female spacewalker from 35 years ago, Kathy Sullivan, was delighted. She said It’s good to finally have enough women in the astronaut corps and trained for spacewalking for this to happen.

NASA leaders – along with women and others around the world – cheered Koch and Meir on. At the same time, many noted that this will hopefully become routine in the future.

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In this photo released by NASA on Oct. 17, 2019, U.S. astronauts Jessica Meir, left, and Christina Koch pose for a photo in the International Space Station. VOA

“We’ve got qualified women running the control, running space centers, commanding the station, commanding spaceships and doing spacewalks,” Sullivan told The Associated Press earlier this week. “And golly, gee whiz, every now and then there’s more than one woman in the same place.”

Tracy Caldwell Dyson, a three-time spacewalker who watched from Mission Control, added: “Hopefully, this will now be considered normal.”

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine watched the big event unfold from NASA headquarters in Washington.

“We have the right people doing the right job at the right time,”he said. “They are an inspiration to people all over the world including me. And we’re very excited to get this mission underway.”

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NASA originally wanted to conduct an all-female spacewalk last spring, but did not have enough medium-size suits ready to go. Koch and Meir were supposed to install more new batteries in a spacewalk next week, but had to venture out three days earlier to deal with an equipment failure that occurred over the weekend. They need to replace an old battery charger for one of the three new batteries that was installed last week by Koch and Andrew Morgan.

“Jessica and Christina, we are so proud of you. You’re going to do great today,” Morgan radioed from inside as the women exited the hatch.

Meir, making her spacewalking debut, became the 228th person in the world to conduct a spacewalk and the 15th woman.

It was the fourth spacewalk for Koch, who is seven months into an 11-month mission that will be the longest ever by a woman. (VOA)