Maternal and newborn survival in Sub-Saharan Africa



We are delighted to publish a report of a two-day meeting held with the African Academy of Sciences in Nairobi, Kenya, which aimed to identify ways to close the scientific gap for maternal and newborn survival in sub-Saharan Africa.

With only just over a decade to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), there is an ongoing burden of 5.4 million deaths globally, including newborns (2.5 million), stillbirths (2.6 million), and maternal (0.3 million). Africa, with only 13% of the world’s population, carries more than half of this burden with 2.3 million deaths per year.

Based on current trends, most sub-Saharan African countries won’t meet the SDG target of 12 or fewer newborn deaths per 1,000 births and are also at risk of missing targets for maternal mortality reduction.

To help identify ways to address this issue, we held a two-day workshop with the African Academy of Sciences in Nairobi, Kenya, on 4-5 September 2018.

The workshop formed part of our Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) policy work, and brought together approximately 65 scientists, clinicians, policymakers and funders from 15 countries across sub-Saharan Africa.

The workshop provided an opportunity for participants to identify ways to make progress towards four so-called ‘Grand Challenge areas’, which together have the ultimate aim of reducing maternal and newborn deaths by ensuring:

  • Better care during pregnancy
  • Better care at birth
  • Better postnatal care for women and their newborns
  • Better hospital care of sick newborns

After outlining the status of the each of these areas across their countries, participants discussed the challenges of implementing the currently available tools which are meant to help accelerate progress towards these Grand Challenges.

Participants then discussed a number of specific ways in which existing tools could be better applied to their countries, before also proposing new innovations that they felt could be better suited to reducing death rates – with examples ranging from better ultrasound and point-of-care diagnostics, improved data linkage, and the importance of incorporating a woman’s preferences into their care.

The report also outlines a number of next steps, including efforts to bring together researchers already working on this topic to create better networks, identifying ways to bridge the gap between research and policymakers, and a desire for a second meeting to prioritise the most pressing needs for future research.

For more information, the full report can be downloaded from the right-hand side of this page. For more information about the workshop, please visit our dedicated policy page.

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