The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has said making new innovations accessible to those who need them most could save two million additional mothers and babies by 2030, and 6.4 million lives by 2040.
The foundation made this known in its seventh annual Goalkeepers report, released on Tuesday with focus on maternal and infant health.
The Goalkeepers report annually tracks progress on development goals agreed to by 193 world leaders in 2015.
Co-authored by Melinda French Gates and Bill Gates, the report shows that since 2016, progress in reducing global maternal mortality has stalled, and in some countries—including the United States—death rates have risen steadily.
It also indicates that nearly 800 women die in childbirth every day.
“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,” the report states in part.
The authors acknowledge the global efforts between 2000 and 2015 that significantly improved the health of mothers and babies but point out that progress has stalled since COVID-19 hit.
The report, however, 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 to 12 deaths per 1,000 live births by 2030.
“By making new innovations accessible to those who need them most, two million additional lives could be saved by 2030, and 6.4 million lives by 2040,” the report said.
“That’s two million families spared an unimaginable heartbreak—and two million more people who can shape and enrich our world.”
In her essay, Melinda Gates said existing life-saving innovations are not making their way to the women who need them most.
“As is so often the case in global health, innovations aren’t making their way to the people who need them most—women in low-income countries, as well as Black and Indigenous women in high-income countries like the United States, who are dying at three times the rate of white women and that needs to change,” she said.
“We have seen over and over again that when countries actually prioritise and invest in women’s health, they unleash a powerful engine for progress that can reduce poverty, advance gender equality, and build resilient economies.”
She said improving maternal health also means improving infant health and survival, which means stronger families, more vibrant communities, and more prosperous societies.
In his essay, Bill Gates said over the past decade, the field of child health has advanced faster and farther than he thought he would see in his lifetime.
Mr Gates said; “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.”
The report highlights seven life-saving innovations that could be easily implemented by midwives and birth attendants in underserved nations and communities.
Among them are interventions that can reduce postpartum hemorrhage, the leading cause of maternal death, by 60 per cent; supplements that combat malnutrition in pregnant women and infants; treatments for anaemia, which affects almost 37 per cent of pregnant women and antibiotics that reduce infections during pregnancy.
The report indicates that AI-enabled portable ultrasound could be easily deployed to monitor high-risk pregnancies in low-resource regions, ensuring that potential problems in pregnancy are diagnosed and addressed early.
The Goalkeepers report shows that on 18 indicators—from poverty to gender equality, education to food security, health to climate—the world is off track.
It underscores the urgent need for action, as well as a renewed global commitment to ensure a more equitable and safe future for all by 2030.
In their final words, the authors said for mothers and babies, having access to the quality health care they need to live long and healthy lives will require policy changes, political will, and more investment in women’s health and healthcare workers, including midwives.
“The world has come so far, so quickly in our understanding of how to save the most fragile lives, and together, we can translate that knowledge into tangible progress,” they said.
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