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World Health Day 2005

Make every mother and child count

7 April 2005

Great Expectations

The following photographs were taken from the photo reportage "Great Expectations", which tells the stories of pregnancy and childbirth of six women living in different parts of the world. The series so far has followed the women from when they were 5 months pregnant to when their babies were born and reached six weeks of age. The series, launched in the lead up to World Health Day 2005, is part of a global effort to ensure that women give birth safely to healthy babies, in a world where over half a million women die in pregnancy and childbirth each year, and nearly 11 million children do not reach their fifth birthdays.

WHO/Pallava Bagla

On the outskirts of Delhi, Renu holds her baby Monica, at six weeks old. Women and children's lack of access to health care is a key feature of inequity as well as a crucial obstacle to progress towards the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) according to the WHO World Health Report 2005. Goals 4 and 5 of the MDGs are to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health.


WHO/Jim Holmes

"I'm feeling tired and it's becoming more difficult for me to continue working in the fields." said Bounlid at five months pregnant. Bounlid lives in Huey Kham village, in the Lao People's Democratic Republic.

Maternal deaths in the Lao People's Democratic Republic are estimated to be among the highest in the world: 1 in 25 women dies in pregnancy and childbirth over the course of her lifetime.


WHO/Petterik Wiggers

Hiwot was 17 years old when she was pregnant with her first child. "I went for an antenatal check-up today and was advised to keep active and eat healthier foods," she said seven months into her pregnancy. Hiwot lives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The World Health Report 2005 calls for a greater use of key interventions, and advocates a "continuum of care" approach for mother and child that begins before pregnancy and extends through childbirth and into the baby's childhood. This in turn requires a massive investment in health systems, particularly the deployment of many more health professionals, including doctors, midwives and nurses.


WHO/Heba Farid

Samah who was 7 months pregnant at the time visits her local health clinic in Cairo, Egypt for routine blood haemoglobin and blood pressure checks. 53% of pregnant women in Egypt attend at least one antenatal check up during their pregnancy. WHO recommends that women have at least four antenatal visits during their pregnancy. Antenatal health care visits are an opportunity to prevent low birth weight and other conditions in the newborn, and also are ways for women to get access to other health care services.


WHO/Jim Holmes

Bounlid gave birth at home in Heuy Kham village in early January, in the Lao People's Democratic Republic, with no medical assistance.

In The World Health Report 2005, WHO estimates that out of a total of 136 million births a year worldwide, less than two thirds of women in less developed countries and only one third in the least developed countries have their babies delivered by a skilled attendant. The report says this can make the difference between life and death for mother and child if complications arise.


WHO/Antonio Suárez Weise

In La Paz, Bolivia, six-day-old Alberth is vaccinated against tuberculosis and hepatitis B and is given vitamin A capsules and iron supplements.

In Bolivia, 20 in every 1000 babies die in their first week of life from preventable diseases. Globally, severe infection, preterm births and birth asphyxia are leading causes of newborn deaths.


WHO/Karen Robinson

Isabella at six weeks old. In the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, 1 in 167 children die before they reach their fifth birthday. This compares with the 1 in 4 children who die before the age of five in some of the poorest countries in the world, including Angola and Sierra Leone.

According to The World Health Report 2005, 10.6 million children a year die before their fifth birthday. 90% of all those deaths are attributable to just six conditions which are avoidable through existing interventions that are simple, affordable and effective. They include oral rehydration therapy, antibiotics, vitamin A and other micronutrients and promotion of breastfeeding.

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