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From 1990 to 2015, the number of maternal deaths worldwide dropped from more than 532,000 to 303,000—a decline of 44%. While substantial progress has been achieved, only nine countries reduced their maternal mortality ratio by at least 75% between 1990 and 2015.  About 99% of the world’s maternal deaths occur in developing regions, with Sub-Saharan Africa alone accounting for two in three (66%) deaths.

Many countries continue to be burdened by these high rates of maternal mortality and high fertility, which are closely linked to high infant mortality and gender inequality. More than a fourth of girls and women in Sub-Saharan African cannot access family planning services, fueling unplanned pregnancies and spreading HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

Child mortality rates have plummeted since 1990. Under-five deaths have dropped from 12.7 million per year in 1990 to 5.9 million in 2015. Although the global progress has been substantial, 16,000 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 12 dying before his or her fifth birthday—more than 12 times higher than the one in 147 average in high-income countries.

This also extends beyond survival to making sure that all children thrive by meeting their full nutritional and development needs. Better early childhood nutrition, early stimulation and early learning programs extend school completion and improve learning outcomes, and in turn, increase adult wages.

Last Updated: Oct 14, 2016

Ensuring that every woman and every child has access to the health care they need is fundamental to ending poverty and is a top priority for the Bank’s Health, Nutrition and Population Global Practice. Healthy women, children and adolescents are the foundation of robust economies and resilient societies—we will not meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) without investing in women, children and adolescents’ health.

In July 2015, the United Nations, the World Bank Group, governments of Canada, Norway, and the United States, and country and global health leaders launched the Global Financing Facility (GFF), a multi-stakeholder partnership that supports country-led efforts to improve the health of women, children and adolescents by:

  • Acting as an innovative financing pathfinder to accelerate the efforts to reach the 2030 goals for women’s, children’s, and adolescents’ health;
  • Financing high impact, evidence- and rights-based interventions to achieve measurable and equitable results;
  • Building inclusive, resilient systems and increasing domestic financing over time to sustain the gains and ensure that all women, children, and adolescents have access to essential healthcare, contributing to universal health coverage; and
  • Filling the financing gap by mobilizing additional resources from public and private sources, both domestic and international, and making more efficient use of existing resources.

The GFF is a key financing platform of the United Nations Secretary-General’s updated Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016-2030), supported by the Every Woman Every Child global movement, and of the SDGs.

Another key effort is the Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD) project, which was approved by the World Bank Group Board in December 2014. SWEDD is improving women’s reproductive health and girls’ education in Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Mali and Niger. Specifically, the effort is generating demand for reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child health and nutrition commodities and services; improving the supply of commodities and qualified personnel; and strengthening advocacy and policy dialogue, as well as capacity for monitoring and policymaking in relation to demographic dividends.

Last Updated: Oct 14, 2016

Through the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group has helped save lives and improve the health of millions in developing countries. From FY13-FY15, IDA:

  • Immunized 142.8 million children;
  • Provided 28.9 million pregnant women with antenatal care during a visit to a health provider;
  • Provided basic nutrition services to 177.3 million pregnant/lactating women, adolescent girls and/or children under 5;
  • Ensured nearly 12 million births were attended by skilled health personnel; and
  • Ensured 2.6 million people received tuberculosis treatment in accordance with the World Health Organization-recommended directly observed treatment short course (DOTS).

Last Updated: Oct 14, 2016