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Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO)

IMNCH 2023: Nigeria, Others at Risk of Missing SDGs Maternal, Newborn Targets

Nigeria is among over 60 countries that are at risk of not meeting the maternal, newborn, and stillborn targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) without urgent intervention, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned.

Raising the alarm was Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organisation while addressing delegates at the ongoing Maternal and Newborn Health Conference in Cape Town, South Africa on Tuesday, May 9.

Despite the advancements made in the last 20 years in attempts to lower maternal and newborn mortality, Dr. Ghebreyesus noted that reductions in maternal and newborn fatalities had now reached a plateau.

The WHO DG maintained that infant deaths continued to make up about half of the under-five mortality, especially in Central and Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan African countries such as Nigeria.

“Every year, 4.5 million mothers, newborns, and stillborns die from preventable causes,” he said in his keynote statement during the first plenary of the four-day event that began on Monday, May 8 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

“Where a child is born or how much money its family has should not determine whether it lives or dies. But, this is still the reality for many women and babies worldwide,” the WHO chief said.

MNHC2023 is the maiden edition of a biennial conference which the organisers expect to provide a forum for accountability and to measure progress and assess challenges in efforts to curb maternal, newborn, and stillborn mortality.

According to them, the conference will create pathways to drive collaboration, coordination, cross-country learning, and alignment within the maternal and newborn health community.

The second day of the conference featured the first plenary, which entailed speeches, presentations, and panel discussions on the global trend in Maternal and Newborn Health and efforts to address the issues from around the world.

Read Also: Maternal Mortality: Nigeria, Others Contribute Towards 97% Of Global Preventable Cases

Various experts bemoaned the slow pace of progress in the fight against Maternal and Newborn mortality.

Dr. Ghebreyesus, in his statement delivered via a live video link to the over 1800 delegates at the first plenary, stressed that urgent action was needed to reignite progress which could save 7.8 million lives.

He urged countries to develop and finance evidence-based plans for maternal and newborn health and to integrate relevant programs into their respective universal health coverage packages and deliver them through primary healthcare.

UN data shows that in 2020, 70 percent of all maternal deaths occurred globally in sub-Saharan Africa.

Tuesday also saw the launch of a joint WHO, UNICEF, and UNFPA report showing estimates of the progress on maternal and newborn mortality.

The joint Every Newborn Action Plan (ENAP) and Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality (EPMM) progress tracking report shows that the global progress in reducing deaths of pregnant women, mothers, and babies has remained stagnant for eight years.

The report attributed the stagnation to decreasing investments, following the COVID-19 pandemic, rising poverty, and worsening humanitarian crises which intensified pressure on already overstretched maternity and newborn health services.

According to the report, out of the combined 4.5 million deaths between 2020 and 2021, there were 0.29 million maternal deaths, 1.9 million stillbirths, and 2.3 million newborn deaths.

MNHC is organised by the AlignMNH, a global initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in collaboration with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the government of South Africa.