Africa’s successes in maternal and infant mortality are failing: WHO

New data from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that by 2030, in sub-Saharan Africa, 390 women will die in childbirth for every 100,000 live births.

This is more than five times the rate of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and well above the global average of 211.

“For many African women, childbirth remains an ongoing risk, with millions of children not surviving their fifth birthday.” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.


According to WHO African Health Statistics Atlas 2022On average, 72 babies die in childbirth today per 1,000 successful births—more than double the 2030 target.

At the current annual decline rate of 3.1 percent, 54 deaths per 1,000 live births are expected by 2030, well above the target of less than 25 deaths per 1,000 live births.

“Africa has seen some of the highest reduction rates in the world across key health targets, but the pace is easing,” Dr Moeti warned.

More investment needed

The report assesses nine targets related to the health SDGs and concludes that, at the current pace, more investment is needed to accelerate progress.

Reducing maternal mortality is one of the most difficult goals to achieve.

In sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 390 women will die in childbirth for every 100,000 live births by 2030. Atlas reports.

The WHO has said that to meet the SDG target, Africa will need an 86 percent reduction compared to the last data update in 2017, which is an unrealistic achievement at the current rate of decline.

COVID effect

The slowdown is exacerbated by the devastating effect COVID-19 pandemics, including in critical health services ranging from postnatal care for women and newborns to neonatal resuscitation and immunization services.

Since 2021, Africa has also faced a new surge in outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

For example, between January and March of this year, the number of cases of measles increased by 400 percent compared to the same period last year.

stumbling blocks

Inadequate investment in health and financing of health programs are just two of the main obstacles to achieving the health SDGs.

WHO conducted a survey of 47 African countries and found that the region had a ratio of doctors, nurses and midwives of 1.55 per 1,000 people, below the UN agency’s threshold of 4.45 health workers per 1,000 people needed to provide essential services and achieve universal health coverage.

The Atlas notes that skilled birth attendants are critical to the well-being of women and newborns, yet only 65 percent of births in Africa use this essential service — the lowest rate in the world and far from the 90 target for 2030. cent.

Meanwhile, neonatal mortality accounts for almost half of all deaths in children under the age of five.

Accelerating the program to reach the reduction target will be an important step towards reducing the under-five mortality rate to less than 25 deaths per 1,000 live births.

The Atlas also provides the latest data on over 50 health-related SDG indicators and provides comprehensive country-level statistics for the region.

A nurse examines a pregnant woman during antenatal care at a health center in Uganda.

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