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  • While substantial progress has been achieved, recent research shows that, for every 100,000 children born worldwide, 211 women still die due to pregnancy-related complications. Most of the world’s maternal deaths occur in developing regions, with Sub-Saharan Africa alone accounting for two in three deaths (66%) and South Asia for a further 20%.

    The lifetime risk of maternal death for women in least developed countries overall is one in 56. And it is even higher for Sub-Saharan Africa, with one in every 37 women dying due to complications related to pregnancy, compared with one in just 7,800 in high-income countries such as Australia and New Zealand. Most of these deaths are preventable if pregnant women receive the healthcare that they need when they need it.

    Child mortality still severe

    According to new research, child mortality rates more than halved between 1990 and 2018 – with under-five deaths dropping from 12.5 million per year in 1990 to 5.3 million in 2018. Yet 15,000 children under five still die every day. A child’s chance of survival is still vastly different based on where he or she is born: Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest under-five mortality rate in the world with one child in 13 dying before his or her fifth birthday—more than 16 times higher than the one in 199 average in high-income countries.

    Globally women are giving birth to fewer children today than three decades ago. However, there are still a handful of countries with persistently high fertility such as Niger (7.0), Mali (6.0) or Democratic Republic of Congo (6.0). In other countries with lower fertility such as Ethiopia, fertility varies within different regions. It ranges from 1.7 in Addis Ababa, the capital city, to 6.4 in Somali, a regional state in Ethiopia. Among countries with persistently high fertility, there is often a high burden of maternal, infant and child mortality.

    Adolescent fertility increases risk of death

    Adolescent fertility is also high in countries with high fertility. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the adolescent fertility rate is 102 births per 1,000 girls. More than a fourth of girls and women in Sub-Saharan Africa cannot access family planning services, fueling unplanned pregnancies and maternal, infant and child mortality and morbidity. Adolescent girls are more likely to experience complications due to pregnancy such as obstructed labor and eclampsia, increasing their risk of death. Children born to adolescents are also more likely to have a low birth weight, ill-health, stunting and other poor nutritional outcomes.

    Fertility is also a key driver of population dynamics. Many countries that are experiencing rapid population growth also have young populations. Such countries have the potential of benefiting from the demographic dividend: by investing in the health and well-being of their people to build human capital, countries can reduce poverty and boost inclusive growth.

    Last Updated: Apr 02, 2020

  • Ensuring that every woman and child has access to health care is pivotal to bolster human capital outcomes and core to the World Bank Group’s agenda to build prosperous economies and end poverty. It is also fundamental to achieving Universal Health Coverage. Improving reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (RMNCAH) supports strong country outcomes in all these areas.

    The Global Financing Facility

    To propel the RMNCAH agenda and harmonize fragmented approaches, the WBG and partners launched the Global Financing Facility (GFF) in 2015, a multi-stakeholder partnership that supports country-led efforts to improve the health and well-being of women, children, and adolescents. Strong partner support and a milestone replenishment of US$1 billion in 2018 have enabled the GFF to expand from four to 36 countries with the world’s highest maternal and child mortality burden and financial needs – one third of these are countries affected by fragility, conflict and violence. Early country results show that GFF support leads to better targeting of the poorest and most vulnerable groups, increased access to services and more domestic financing for malnutrition, maternal mortality and adolescent girls’ health. 

    Empowering women in the Sahel region

    Another key effort is the Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD) project. Active across the region, SWEDD is empowering women and adolescent girls and increasing their access to quality education and reproductive, child and maternal health services in Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. The project mobilizes all of society to harness the tremendous economic potential of women—from religious leaders, legislators and health workers to mothers and husbands—benefiting their families, communities and countries as a whole.

    In Niger, for example, SWEDD has supported more than 100,000 girls from poor backgrounds by providing school kits, scholarships, housing and academic support. Across the region, it has also helped train over 6,600 midwives, create 3,420 safe spaces to give a second chance to 102,600 vulnerable out-of-school girls, and reach more than 4 million people through awareness raising campaigns on issues such as reproductive, maternal and child health and violence against women.

    Last Updated: Apr 02, 2020


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