The Inequalities of Global Healthcare for Women & Children

According to a new report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), published at the start of May, the global progress in reducing the rates of premature deaths of pregnant women, mothers and babies has flatlined for a staggering eight years due to the decreasing investment being made into maternal and newborn health.
27 July 2023

Despite improving for many years, the survival rate has stagnated since 2015 with around 290,000 maternal deaths each year, 1.9 million stillbirths and 2.3 million newborn deaths during the first month of life. Over 4.5 million women and babies die every year during pregnancy, childbirth or the first weeks after birth, equivalent to one death happening every seven seconds. These deaths are mostly caused by preventable or treatable causes if adequate care was available.

Impact of COVID-19 & Strain on Healthcare Systems

COVID-19 placed an enormous strain on the global healthcare systems, with many countries still in the midst of trying to recover from the pandemic’s impact. Around 25% of countries are still reporting ongoing disruptions to vital pregnancy and postnatal care & services for sick children. 

Dr.Anshu Banerjee, Director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing at the World Health Organisation (WHO) said, “pregnant women and newborns continue to die at unacceptably high rates worldwide, and the COVID-19 pandemic has created further setbacks to providing them with the healthcare they need. If we wish to see different results, we must do things differently. More and smarter investments in primary healthcare are needed so that every woman and baby – no matter where they live – has the best chance of health and survival.”

With prematurity now the leading cause of death of all under-fives globally, less than a third of countries report having sufficient newborn care units to treat small and sick babies. The leading cause being lack of investment in primary healthcare and attempting to fund the losses which followed post pandemic.

Dr Julitta Onabanjo, Director of the Technical Division at the United Nations Population Fund said, “the death of any woman or young girl during pregnancy or childbirth is a serious violation of their human rights.” “It also reflects the urgent need to scale up access to quality sexual and reproductive health services as part of universal health coverage and primary health care, especially in communities where maternal mortality rates have stagnated or even risen during recent years.” Dr Julitta continued to say that “we must take a human rights and gender transformative approach to address maternal and newborn mortality, and it is vital that we stamp out the underlying factors which give rise to poor maternal health outcomes like socio-economic inequalities, discrimination, poverty and injustice.”

The report also indicated that there should be interventions made especially to target the poorest women and those in vulnerable situations who are most likely to miss out on lifesaving care. Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia are the most affected regions of newborn and maternal deaths as fewer than 60% of women receive 4 or less antenatal checks.

Saving Lives

Improving the level of maternal and newborn health requires addressing the harmful gender norms, biases and inequalities many are still subject to around the world. A recent study shows that around 60% of 15-49 year olds make their own decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive health. 

Improving the level of maternal and newborn health requires addressing the harmful gender norms, biases and inequalities. A recent study has shown that about 60% of women aged 15-49 make their own decisions regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights.

To put it simply, women and babies must have quality, affordable healthcare available to them before, during and after childbirth as well as access to family planning services. But in order to do this, the healthcare industry requires investment and support in order to ensure midwives & essential medicines are provided as well as safe water and reliable electricity.