Scaled-up tech innovations can help end preventable women, children deaths: UN official

Source:Xinhua Published: 2015-3-11 14:13:00

Technology innovations can play an effective role in ending preventable maternal and children deaths if they are taken to scale, said a UN official in a recent interview with Xinhua.

"There are now over a thousand new innovations that are in the pipeline, that have been developed under the umbrella of Every Woman and Every Child," said Nana Taona Kuo, senior manager of Every Woman Every Child, a UN launched movement which focuses on reducing the preventable deaths of women and children.

A progress report on this movement released here Tuesday revealed, over the past five years, some innovations developed and supported by the movement have been in use, including a mobile app of medical sensors to diagnose low oxygen associated pneumonia in newborns.

The app can also help to diagnose pre-eclampsia in pregnant woman and can reduce maternal and newborn mortality by as much as 30 percent over the next 10 years if it is widely available, said the report.

Kuo told Xinhua that this app, developed by a number of partners of Every Woman and Every Child, is a good example of concerted efforts to bring technology to women and children in remote areas in the world and help them make rapid diagnosis.

She also said her team is finding, among those over 1,000 innovations, the most promising ones that can be taken to scale at country level, making sure that they are supported by strong investment, and working with governments to scale up these innovations so as to save the most lives possible.

To make this happen, it is critical to establish a strong partnership between the UN system, governments, private sector, civil society, as well as academia, said Kuo.

Every Woman and Every Child has turned into the fastest growing global public health movement, she said, adding it is "a partnership in history" which mobilizes over 60 billion US dollars, with 34 billion dispersed, ever since its launch in 2010.

The movement has now gathered over 400 commitments by more than 300 partners around the world, ranging from governments and foundations to business, civil society and low-income countries themselves, according to the report.

"So the result of these partnerships has been a reduction in maternal and child mortality deaths in all 49 focus countries of the global strategy," said Kuo. "And we've also seen a rapid increase in scaling up the coverage of essential health services."

The report said since 2010, 2.4 million lives of women and children have been saved in the 49 countries targeted. Countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia have witnessed declines in under-five mortality rate and maternal mortality rate. In Haiti, under-five mortality rate has experienced a 58.3 percent decline between 2010 and 2013.

It also said improvements in key health indicators in those targeted countries include 870,000 new health care workers, a 193- percent increase in prevention of mother-to-child HIV treatment, as well as a 49-percent increase in oral rehydration therapy for treating infant diarrhea.

"This is very very impressive progress," said Kuo. "But of course, we have not met the MDGs ... so this is a non-finished agenda that needs to be prioritized as the world now debates and looks at the future Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)."

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is a set of development goals that are to expire later this year, among which the MDG 4 -- reduce the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015 and MDG 5 -- reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three- quarters in 1990-2015 and achieve access to reproductive health by 2015, are specifically focused on maternal and child health.

In 2010, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the Every Woman and Every Child movement which puts into action the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's health, primarily to support MDG 4 and 5 which were lagging the most behind.

However, the report, in 2013, 6.3 million children died before the age of five, including 2.8 million who died in their first 28 days of life, and 289,000 women died of complications from pregnancy or childbirth.

Every day in 2013 saw more than 17,000 under-five deaths and almost 800 maternal deaths, said the report.

Kuo said that the global community behind this movement is looking at updating that global strategy to be in line with the new SDGs and a new 15-year global strategy will be launched in September this year.

It will provide new vision and framework of how we intend to achieve the goal of ending all preventable deaths of women and children in our generation, she added.

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