South Africa is struggling with sky high maternal mortality rates. (AFP)

MDGs: Child and maternal health needs critical care

Ina Skosana
Despite increased efforts to improve child and maternal health, countries are still lagging behind in meeting their Millennium Development Goals.

Millennium Development Goals are unlikely to be met, despite increased efforts to improve child and maternal health, according to a report released by the independent Expert Review Group (iERG) on Information and Accountability for Women's and Children's health in New York this week.

The group found that only seven out of the 75 countries with high mortality rates for children under five years old are on track in reducing these deaths by two thirds between 1990 and 2015. The group further found that none of the countries with a high number of women who die during pregnancy, childbirth or shortly thereafter have achieved substantial reduction in maternal mortality.  

Speaking at a side event at the UN General Assembly in New York this week, Priya Agrawal from the international maternal health organisation, Merck for Mothers, said that maternal mortality is an indicator of how well a health system works. 

"You need a functioning health system to ensure a woman survives pregnancy and child birth and because of that if your maternal mortality ratio is high it shows that you don't have a healthy functioning health system," Agrawal said.  

South Africa is one of the countries that is struggling to meet its Millennium Development Goals. The country's under-five mortality is 53 per 1 000 live births, more than two times higher than the UN target of 20 deaths per 1 000. 

South Africa is also struggling with sky high maternal mortality rates: 269 deaths per 100 000 live births, more than seven times higher than the UN target of 38 deaths per 100 000. 

'Holding ourselves accountable'
Co-chairperson of iERG, Joy Phumaphi, said: "Women, children and adolescents are at the centre of and key to sustainable development. For us to achieve Millennium Development Goals  4 and 5 [improving maternal (4) and child health (5)], the solid foundation of strong quality health systems and services, must be delivered urgently." 

iER co-chairperson Richard Horton added: "As the realisation dawns that many nations will fail to meet their Millennium Development Goal targets, the international community needs to examine, honestly and critically, why their rhetoric has too often fallen short of results. 

"Only by holding ourselves accountable for our promises and commitments will we learn the lessons for a new and even more ambitious era of sustainable development," Horton said.

Ina Skosana's trip to New York was sponsored by the World Health Organisation as part of the Partnership for Newborn, Maternal and Child Health’s United Nations General Assembly scholarship programme.

child deathsmaternal deathsMillennium Development Goals