Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The State of the World's Mothers and Children in 2013

May 07, 2013

Where is the best place on earth to be a mother? Save the Children’s report, State of the World’s Mothers, released today gives us the answers. You will also find the extreme opposite—the worst place in the world for mothers and children. In both cases, the report makes clear that the state of the world’s mothers is about the state of the world overall. As Melinda Gates notes in the foreword to the report, when we invest in women, we invest in the health and lives of children and improve the human condition.  The health of women and children are inextricably linked.

This is the 14th annual State of the World’s Mothers report which sheds light on these issues, but this year breaks them  down even more, for the first time specifically revealing the risks during those critical 24 hours after birth (the "first moments", notes the report) – the birth day. It’s a day  when mothers should be celebrating but, unfortunately, it’s also a day in many countries where mothers and newborns face the greatest threats to survival.

 It’s a day when mothers should be celebrating but, unfortunately, it’s also a day in many countries where mothers and newborns face the greatest threats to survival.  

We have the opportunity to save millions of lives if the global community comes together on behalf of mothers and newborns.

This report gives us hope that it is possible to give a newborn a better chance of survival. It highlights four simple, life-saving treatments that if taken to scale could save more than one million newborns each year: 

  • Umbilical cord cleansing to prevent infections using chlorhexidine
  • Helping babies who are born early to breathe using antenatal corticosteroids; resuscitation devices to help babies breathe at birth when necessary; and injectable antibiotics to treat newborn infections.
  • Kangaroo Mother Care which keeps the baby warm encourages breastfeeding and fights infection.
  • Early and exclusive breastfeeding is also one of public health’s best buys and would save many more babies.

It’s equally important to ensure that we continue to focus on safe care for women during pregnancy and childbirth and to increase the number of health workers in regions of the world where there are shortages.

 This report gives us hope that it is possible to give a newborn a better chance of survival.

The release of this report and this information is monumental, considering that a decade ago we barely understood the causes of newborn mortality and were intimidated by what was perceived to be a need for highly specialized care for a newborn. We now know that is not true.

It is heartening for me to see this inspired commitment to newborn health and the critical connections made between the health of women and newborns. This report, coming on the heels of the Global Newborn Health Conference and paving the way for the Women Deliver Conference, keeps mothers and newborns front and center, a place they deserve to be.

A healthy start to life paves the way for a healthy childhood with more opportunities for a good education, which then leads to healthy, productive adults, contributing to stronger economies and having healthy babies themselves. It’s a virtuous cycle, with healthy newborns at the nexus of the continuum.

We now have the opportunity to ensure that each baby born around the world has the pleasure of celebrating his or her first birthday, then the fifth, then the tenth, and on into adulthood. We have the chance to rally on behalf of women and girls as well. Now is the time to focus on saving the lives of our mothers and newborns.   

 
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