The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has just unveiled its seventh annual Goalkeepers Report, which illuminates the world’s collective shortcomings as we reach the midpoint in our pursuit of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It also highlights the potential for innovation and investment to drive progress, especially in combating the global crisis of maternal and child mortality.
Co-authored by Melinda French Gates and Bill Gates, the foundation’s Co-chairs, this report sheds light on fresh data indicating the transformative impact of expanding global access to seven innovations and practices that address the primary causes of maternal and newborn mortality.
In their joint statement, Melinda and Bill Gates state, “By making these new innovations accessible to those who need them most, we could save an additional 2 million lives by 2030, and 6.4 million lives by 2040. That equates to 2 million families spared from an unimaginable tragedy, and 2 million more individuals contributing to shaping and enriching our world.”
Tragically, since 2016, the progress in reducing global maternal mortality has halted, with some countries, including the United States, experiencing a steady rise in death rates. Worldwide, nearly 800 women lose their lives during childbirth every day.
Although the mortality rates for children under the age of 5 have continued to decline since the mid-2010s, the first month of a newborn’s life remains the most perilous period, accounting for nearly half of all under-5 deaths today. Astonishingly, an estimated 74% of child deaths occur within a baby’s first year of life.
In their respective essays, French Gates and Gates acknowledge the significant global efforts made between 2000 and 2015, which notably improved the health of mothers and infants.
However, they emphasize that progress has stagnated since the outbreak of COVID-19. They elucidate how groundbreaking insights into maternal and child health over the past decade have led to cost-effective and readily implementable innovations and practices to prevent and treat life-threatening childbirth complications such as postpartum hemorrhaging, infections, and maternal anemia.
They urgently call for immediate action to steer the world back on course to achieve the global targets of reducing maternal mortality to fewer than 70 per 100,000 births and newborn mortality to 12 deaths per 1,000 live births by 2030.
Melinda French Gates notes, “As is so often the case in global health, innovations aren’t reaching those who need them the most—women in low-income countries, as well as Black and Indigenous women in high-income countries like the United States, where the mortality rate is three times higher than that of white women. This situation must change. We have witnessed repeatedly that when countries prioritize and invest in women’s health, they unleash a potent catalyst for progress, capable of reducing poverty, advancing gender equality, and fostering resilient economies.”
Bill Gates adds, “Over the past decade, the field of child health has advanced more rapidly and profoundly than I could have envisioned during my lifetime. If we can ensure that our delivery mechanisms keep pace with our knowledge—if researchers continue to develop new innovations and skilled healthcare workers can disseminate them to every mother and child in need—then more infants will survive those critical first days.”
Several innovative interventions and practices that can be delivered by midwives and birth attendants within communitieshave been highlighted in the report:
- An intervention reducing postpartum hemorrhage by 60% for less than $1 per package.
- Bifidobacteria (B. Infantis), a probiotic supplement combating newborn malnutrition when given with breastmilk.
- Multiple micronutrient supplements (MMS) improving baby survival by replenishing nutrients in pregnant women.
- A one-time IV iron infusion during pregnancy to prevent and treat anemia, linked to postpartum hemorrhage.
- Antenatal corticosteroids (ACS) for premature births, accelerating fetal lung growth.
- Azithromycin to reduce maternal infections and infant mortality in high-risk settings.
- AI-enabled portable ultrasound for early diagnosis of high-risk pregnancies in low-resource areas.
At the halfway mark for achieving the SDGs, the Goalkeepers Report underscores that the world is veering off course across 18 key indicators encompassing poverty, gender equality, education, food security, health, and climate. This underscores the pressing need for action and a renewed global commitment to securing a more equitable and safe future for all by 2030.
To provide mothers and babies with the quality healthcare they need for healthy, long lives, it is imperative to enact policy changes, muster political will, and channel more investment into women’s health and healthcare workers, including midwives.
Mark Suzman, CEO of the Gates Foundation, asserts, “Our understanding of how to save the most fragile lives has advanced remarkably in a short period. Together, we can translate this knowledge into tangible progress by helping countries access the highest-quality products proven to save both mothers’ and babies’ lives.
This involves increased investment in research and development of new lifesaving tools and approaches, as well as ensuring women have agency over their own healthcare throughout their journey to motherhood. The world has the capacity and obligation to do more to achieve a healthier, more prosperous, and more equitable world.”
Read the report: https://www.gatesfoundation.org/goalkeepers/report/2023-report/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=gk2023&utm_content=BG#Intro