Decrease in Child and Maternal Mortality Rates Not Enough

Post Date: 4.25.2017

Considered one of the biggest public health achievements in recent years, the global rate for maternal mortalities has decreased by 44 percent since 1990, according to a 2015 report that examines the progress made under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).1 In the same 25-year timespan, the MDGs also promoted new efforts to help decrease the under-age-five child mortality rate, reducing the number of child deaths by 53 percent.2

Though these statistics are encouraging, UNICEF officials still recognize the need for more targeted efforts on both a domestic and global level.3 By looking at how the MDGs worked to lower these rates, we can see how to help lower rates even further in the future.

In 2014, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) released the Acting on the Call (AOTC) report, which served as a roadmap outlining specific plans to end preventable maternal and child death by 2035.4 These plans called for a renewed focus and allocation of resources toward the 25 countries that account for 70 percent of the total child and maternal deaths each year.5

A fair distribution of resources became a primary focus of the report, because child and maternal mortality are largely preventable.6 Ninety-nine percent of maternal deaths happen in developing countries.7 The leading causes of death for pregnant or birthing women are:

  • Severe bleeding (mostly after childbirth)
  • Infection (usually after childbirth)
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Complications from unsafe abortions
  • Associations with diseases like malaria and AIDS (during pregnancy)

For children under age five, the leading causes of death are:8

  • Undernutrition (almost 50%)
  • Preterm birth complications
  • Pneumonia
  • Intrapartum-related complications
  • Diarrhea
  • Sepsis/meningitis

Despite the notable decline in these rates over the last 25 years, 16,000 children under five9 and more than 800 women still die each day from these causes.10 What can we do to accelerate the progress we’re making moving toward?

To help reduce these largely preventable deaths and to expedite their progress, the 2016 AOTC report placed greater emphasis on establishing equitable access to high-quality healthcare services, particularly for pregnant women close to delivery.11 This approach calls for a specific focus on:

  • Equity in accessing routine immunization services
  • Ensuring equity of care for child illnesses
  • Family planning and reproductive health
  • Access to high-quality, affordable maternal and newborn care
  • Social and behavioral change
  • Nutrition availability
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene

By helping to spread resources out across the globe, we can help save lives and bring the MDGs closer to their ultimate goal of ending all preventable child and maternal mortalities. See our infographic below for a breakdown on the 25 countries that account for 70 percent of under-five child and maternal deaths.

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1 World Health Organization. (November 2015). Maternal deaths fell 44% since 1990—UN. Retrieved on April 14, 2017, from who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/maternal-mortality/en/
2 UNICEF. (September 2015). Level & Trends in Child Mortality. Retrieved on April 14, 2017, from unicef.org/publications/files/Child_Mortality_Report_2015_Web_8_Sept_15.pdf
3 UNICEF. (September 2015). Level & Trends in Child Mortality. Retrieved on April 14, 2017, from unicef.org/publications/files/Child_Mortality_Report_2015_Web_8_Sept_15.pdf
4 USAID. (June 2014). Acting on the Call: Ending Preventable Child and Maternal Deaths Report. Retrieved on April 14, 2017, from usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1864/USAID_ActingOnTheCall_2014.pdf
5 USAID. (June 2016). Acting on the Call: Ending Preventable Child and Maternal Deaths: A Focus on Equity. Retrieved on April 14, 2017, from usaid.gov/sites/default/files/Final-AOTC-file-v2.pdf
6 USAID. (June 2014). Acting on the Call: Ending Preventable Child and Maternal Deaths Report. Retrieved on April 14, 2017, from usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1864/USAID_ActingOnTheCall_2014.pdf
7 World Health Organization. (November 2016). Maternal mortality: Fact sheet. Retrieved on April 14, 2017 from who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs348/en/
8 UNICEF. (September 2015). Level & Trends in Child Mortality. Retrieved on April 14, 2017, from unicef.org/publications/files/Child_Mortality_Report_2015_Web_8_Sept_15.pdf
9 UNICEF. (September 2015). Level & Trends in Child Mortality. Retrieved on April 14, 2017, from unicef.org/publications/files/Child_Mortality_Report_2015_Web_8_Sept_15.pdf
10 World Health Organization. (November 2016). Maternal mortality: Fact sheet. Retrieved on April 14, 2017 from who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs348/en/
11 USAID. (June 2016). Acting on the Call: Ending Preventable Child and Maternal Deaths: A Focus on Equity. Retrieved on April 14, 2017, from usaid.gov/sites/default/files/Final-AOTC-file-v2.pdf