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UN Report: Improving Maternal and newborn health and Survival and reducing stillbirth

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Social Justice: Health


Source: WHO 

Context: According to a report by the United Nations global progress on improving maternal and newborn health has halted since 2015.

Objective of the report: It outlines progress at the mid-point for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, and highlights priority actions towards eliminating preventable maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths.


Global Findings:

  • Global progress in reducing deaths of pregnant women, mothers and babies has stagnated for eight years
  • Deaths: Over 4.5 million women and babies die every year during pregnancy, childbirth or the first weeks after birth – mostly from preventable or treatable causes if proper care was available.
    • 290 000 maternal deaths each year
    • 1.9 million stillbirths (babies who die after 28 weeks of pregnancy )
    • 2.3 million newborn deaths (in the first month of life)


India Findings:

  • India tops the list of 10 countries which bear 60% of global maternal deaths, stillbirths & newborn deaths burden
  • India accounts for 17 per cent of global maternal deaths, stillbirths and neonatal births


Despite the high numbers, As per the Sample Registration System (SRS) report by the Registrar General of India (RGI), the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) of India has reduced from 130 per 100,000 live births in 2014-16 to 113 per 100,000 live births in 2016-18.


Reasons for the halt in progress:

Decreasing investments in maternal and newborn healthJust 1 in 10 countries (of more than 100 surveyed) report having sufficient funds to implement their health schemes related to maternal and newborns.
Lack of InfrastructureLess than a third of countries report having sufficient newborn care and maternal care units.
Prematurity (the leading cause of under-five deaths globally)According to the report, every year, 2.5 million babies are born prematurely, and one million of these babies die due to complications.
COVID-19 pandemicAround a quarter of countries still report ongoing disruptions to vital pregnancy and postnatal care and services for sick children.
Rising povertyPoverty can impact access to quality maternal and child healthcare services, nutrition, and education.
Worsening humanitarian crisesFor example, the current crisis in Sudan and the Russia-Ukraine war can affect access to healthcare services and supplies.
Gender inequalityOnly about 60% of women aged 15-49 years make their own decisions regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights. This can affect access to healthcare services and information.



  • Scale-up access to quality sexual and reproductive health services as part of universal health coverage and primary health care
  • Use of technology: E.g., using a simple, low-cost collection device called a ‘drape’ to reduce blood loss during delivery
  • Addressing harmful gender norms, biases and inequalities
  • Investment and political commitment
  • Strengthening service delivery for quality and respectful care
  • Community engagement
  • Data and information systems
  • Access to quality emergency obstetric care (EmOC)


Targets to be achieved:

Frame an action plan to end preventable newborn deaths
Build strategies for ending preventable maternal mortality
90% of pregnant women receiving at least four antenatal care contacts
Skilled health personnel attending 90% of births
80% of new mothers and babies receive postnatal care within two days of birth
80% of districts across countries have access to emergency obstetric services and small and sick newborn care

Insta Links:

Maternal death rate declining: report


Mains Links:

In order to enhance the prospects of social development, sound and adequate healthcare policies are needed particularly in the fields of geriatric and maternal healthcare. Discuss. (UPSC 2020)