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Envision GCF on Maternal and child health

Maternal and child health refers to the health of mothers, infants, children and adolescents. Maternal health is the health of women during pregnancychildbirth, and the postpartum period. It encompasses the health care dimensions of family planningpreconceptionprenatal, and postnatal care in order to ensure a positive and fulfilling experience in most cases and reduce maternal morbidity and mortality in other cases.

More about maternal and child health.

Worldwide, about 140 million women give birth every year. While much is known about the clinical management of labour and childbirth, less attention is paid to what beyond clinical interventions, needs to be done to make women feel safe, comfortable and positive about the experience. The UN Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health seeks to ensure that not only do women survive childbirth complications if they arise, but also that they thrive and reach their full potential for health and life.

“Two thirds of all maternal deaths occur in just 10 countries; India and Nigeria together account for one third of maternal death world wide” (WHO, 2009). Four elements are essential to maternal death prevention. The first is prenatal care. It is recommended that expectant mothers receive at least four antenatal visits to check and monitor the health of mother and foetus. Secondly, there should be skilled birth attendants with emergency backup such as doctors, nurses and midwives who have the skills to manage normal deliveries and recognize the onset of complications. Thirdly, emergency obstetric care to address the major causes of maternal death which are haemorrhage, sepsis, unsafe abortion, hypertensive disorders and obstructed labour. Lastly, there should be adequate postnatal care which is the six weeks following delivery. During this time, bleeding, sepsis and hypertensive disorders can occur and newborns are extremely vulnerable in the immediate aftermath of birth. Therefore, follow-up visits by a health worker to assess the health of both mother and child in the postnatal period are strongly recommended.

Children represent the future, and ensuring their healthy growth and development ought to be a prime concern of all societies. Newborns are particularly vulnerable and children are vulnerable to malnutrition and infectious diseases, many of which can be effectively prevented or treated.

Undernutrition is estimated to be associated with 2.7 million child deaths annually or 45% of all child deaths. Infant and young child feeding is a key area to improve child survival and promote healthy growth and development. The first 2 years of a child’s life are particularly important, as optimal nutrition during this period lowers morbidity and mortality, reduces the risk of chronic disease, and fosters better development overall.

Optimal breastfeeding is so critical that it could save the lives of over 820 000 children under the age of 5 years each year. WHO and UNICEF recommend early initiation of breastfeeding within 1 hour of birth, exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, and introduction of nutritionally-adequate and safe complementary (solid) foods at 6 months together with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond. However, many infants and children do not receive optimal feeding. For example, only about 36% of infants aged 0–6 months worldwide were exclusively breastfed over the period of 2007-2014.

Recommendations have been refined to also address the needs for infants born to HIV-infected mothers. Antiretroviral drugs now allow these children to exclusively breastfeed until they are 6 months old and continue breastfeeding until at least 12 months of age with a significantly reduced risk of HIV transmission.

The United Nations, in its effort to improve maternal and child health through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) programme which it hopes to fulfill by the year 2030, have included as its goals some key issues such as no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation.


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