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A woman holds her newborn baby in a nursery at the Juba Teaching Hospital in Juba April 3, 2013. Very few births in South Sudan, which has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world at 2,054 per 100,000 live births, are assisted by trained midwives, according to the UNDP's website. Picture taken April 3, 2013. REUTERS/Andreea Campeanu (SOUTH SUDAN - Tags: SOCIETY HEALTH) - GM1E94416HS01

How many lives are at stake? Assessing 2030 sustainable development goal trajectories for maternal and child health

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The launch of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2016 introduced a new era for the global health and development community. The new goals, which apply to all countries and run to 2030, include one health goal, SDG 3—to “ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages”—with 13 associated targets. Target 3.1 calls for the global maternal mortality ratio to be below 70 deaths per 100 000 live births, a 68% reduction in only 15 years. Target 3.2 calls for all countries to lower their child mortality to at most 25 per 1000 live births and their neonatal (age 0-28 days) mortality to at most 12 per 1000 live births. Are countries on course to meet the new targets, and, if not, what do they need to do to accelerate their progress?

Krista Rasmussen

Officer of Policy and Research in Policy Planning - UN Foundation

Gavin Yamey

Director, Center for Policy Impact in Global Health and Professor of Global Health - Duke Global Health Institute, Duke University

In this article, published in the British Medical Journal, we address alignment of current trajectories with the SDG targets for maternal mortality and child mortality. We explore how much acceleration is needed for off-track countries to achieve the relevant targets. We then present corresponding estimates for the number of lives that will be lost if the targets are not achieved. This allows us to identify which countries have the largest number of lives at stake. We end by briefly summarizing key issues to be addressed in order to accelerate progress.


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