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WHO Launches New Program and Targets for Preventing Maternal Deaths

October 6, 2021 by Alexa Hornbeck
A woman in labour, walks to her delivery bed at Malawi Government's Mauwa Health Centre labour ward in Chiradzulu, southern Malawi, Sunday, May 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Thoko Chikondi)

The World Health Organization held a webinar this week to discuss how to prevent maternal deaths. Globally, roughly 295,000 women die each year due to complications during childbirth.

Between 2000 and 2017, the average annual rate of reduction in global maternal mortality was 2.9%, which is far short of what is needed to achieve the targets set by the WHO.

“The current pace of progress shows we are off track and the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the progress even further,” said Anshu Banerjee, WHO Geneva.

 In 2015, the WHO established strategies and 11 key themes for ending preventable maternal mortality.

 However, this week WHO leaders announced a reorientation of the program by launching the Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality plan which provides targets and milestones to reduce maternal mortality in all countries by 2025.

A primary goal is that by 2030 all countries should reduce their maternal mortality ratio by at least two thirds of their 2010 baseline level, and no country should have a ratio greater than 140 per 100,000 live births.

WHO leaders presented five  specific targets to achieve that goal and others, including providing every pregnant women with four or more antenatal care contacts, having every birth tended by skilled health personnel, providing every woman and newborn with early routine postnatal care, encouraging women ages 15-49 to make their own informed and empowered decisions about sexual health and reproductive care, and ensuring that pregnant women with obstetric complications be covered by an emergency obstetric care health facility within two hours of travel time.

Beginning in  2022, WHO and other organizations will plan operational guidance for collecting coverage of targets, and countries will continue to report on targets and milestones on a voluntary basis in 2023 and 2025. 

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