For a Mother's Day Gift with Lasting Appeal, Invest in Women Health Workers, says Save the Children
WESTPORT, Conn., (May 4, 2010) - To address the global shortfall of 4.3 million health care workers needed to end preventable maternal and child deaths, countries must invest in women who are front-line health care workers, Save the Children says in its new State of the World's Mothers report. To view the full State of the World's Mothers 2010 report, and to learn more about the EVERY ONE campaign, click here
"It would be great if every pregnant mother and sick child had the option to see a doctor in a clinic, but in poor countries around the world that is far from the reality," said Mary Beth Powers, Save the Children's newborn and child survival campaign chief. "The good news is, with relatively modest investments in basic training, supervision and support, women who are front-line health workers can promote and deliver low-cost, proven health interventions that can save millions of children each year."
Save the Children is highlighting how investments in women health workers on the front lines can save the lives of children who might otherwise die from pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria and other preventable or treatable causes.
Annually, 8.8 million children die before their fifth birthday and nearly 350,000 women die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Most of these deaths could be prevented if skilled and equipped health care providers were available in communities and clinics.
Women front-line health workers are particularly critical to reducing preventable maternal and child deaths. Save the Children's report lays out how women community health care workers and midwives are making significant progress in a number of poor countries around the world.
"Women have to be part of the equation to save the lives of other women and their children," said Powers. "I've lived in Pakistan and worked in many countries where social and cultural norms represent an additional barrier to basic health care for poor women. Many women aren't permitted to seek health care if they can't get it from another woman - even when it could save their life or their baby's life."
The report lays out evidence that women with limited formal education can be trained to successfully deliver life-saving services - such as breastfeeding counseling, post-natal care, vaccines and antibiotics. It also highlights the critical need for midwives to close the gap in skilled attendance at birth. Annually, around 50 million women give birth with no professional help.
"Without putting more women on the front lines of health care provision, the world will never overcome the extreme shortages that are deadly for poor children and women," Powers said. "The wonderful added benefit of training women is that it encourages female education and workforce participation, which are also linked to better health and economic security for moms and their kids."
Success Stories Explored in State of the World's Mothers 2010 Report
Nepal: The deployment of 50,000 Female Community Health Volunteers has helped this very poor country cut maternal deaths by half in 20 years and be on track to meet the U.N. Millennium Development Goal 4 to reduce childhood mortality by two thirds by 2015.
Bangladesh: This very poor country has already cut under-5 mortality by 64 percent since 1990, and is also on track to meet the goal of reducing child deaths by two-thirds. Female fieldworkers who make home visits have played a critical role in delivering family planning services and reducing the number of high-risk pregnancies in Bangladesh. In another project, supported by Save the Children, home visits by female community health workers offering prenatal and postnatal care reduced newborn deaths by 34 percent in targeted rural communities.
Ethiopia: More women and children are receiving health care than ever before despite the presence of only 1 doctor per 42,700 people. Since 2004, the government has been training female health extension workers to reach poor rural communities, and will soon train these women to also provide antibiotics to treat pneumonia - the leading cause of child deaths in Ethiopia.
Indonesia: The government's "midwife in every village" program has contributed to a 42 percent drop in maternal mortality since 1989. More needs to be done, however, to reach those women who still deliver in the absence of a trained and skilled health provider.
Afghanistan: One in four children dies here before age 5, and the report's "Mothers' Index" ranks Afghanistan as the worst place in the world to be a mother. Yet, there are signs of real progress. A government initiative to increase the number of midwives is slowly increasing access to prenatal care and skilled attendance at birth. A new Lancet study suggests a 20 percent drop in maternal deaths between 2000 and 2008. Still, mothers in Afghanistan in face a 1 in 8 lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy-related causes, versus a 1 in 47,600 risk, for example, in Ireland.
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