Countdown to 2015 report: ‘unfinished business’ on maternal, child health

30 JUNE | Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa


Countdown to 2015 launched its 2014 Report today at the Partners’ Forum held in Johannesburg, South Africa. The 2014 Report, Fulfilling the Health Agenda for Women and Children, was released exactly 18 months to the day from the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals at the end of 2015. Like previous Countdown reports, it includes an updated, detailed profile for each of the 75 Countdown countries, which together account for more than 95% of the global burden of maternal, newborn and child death.

The new report shows that many developing countries have taken substantive action to save women’s and children’s lives, but that vast areas of ‘unfinished business’ need to be addressed now and prioritized in post-2015 health and development frameworks. Countdown to 2015 studied progress in 75 countries, finding that substantial inequities persist, even in countries that have made solid gains in maternal and child health. Many countries are still only reaching half or less of women and children with vital health interventions, and many of the poorest are being left behind.

The 2014 Report also provides an assessment of the state of the data to support evidence-based decisions in women’s and children’s health, and describes elements of the Countdown process that might inform ongoing efforts to hold the world to account for progress. It concludes by laying out concrete action steps that can be taken now to ensure continued progress for women and children in the years ahead.

The headlines and data highlights from the 2014 Report include the following:

  • In several countries, more than half of the mothers and children in the poorest 20% of the population receive 2 or fewer of 8 interventions deemed essential for preventing or treating common causes of maternal and child death.
  • Stunting, a measure of size for age that reflects long-term hunger, illness, or poor child care, is on average, 2.5 times higher among poor children than among children from wealthier families.
  • In the majority of Countdown countries, more than 30% of children are stunted, and undernutrition contributes to nearly half of all deaths among children under age 5 — or about 3 million deaths a year.
  • Half of the 75 Countdown countries still have high maternal mortality rates, and 16 countries –all of them in Africa – still have “very high” maternal mortality – 500 or more maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.
  • Reducing preventable newborn deaths is a major part of the unfinished business of the MDGs.
  • Severe health workforce shortages limit countries’ ability to provide high-quality care to women and children: only seven Countdown countries report having enough skilled professionals to provide care and coverage of key interventions.