IMNHC2023 Issues Urgent Call For Increased Investment In Health, Social Sectors To Reduce Stillbirths


In Cape Town

Global leaders have issued an urgent call for countries to invest in health and social sectors to meet the targets for maternal and stillbirth reduction at the first biennial International Maternal Newborn Health Conference (IMNHC2023) in Cape Town, South Africa.

The experts convened to drive urgent action for the health of mothers and newborns by leading with evidence, sharing effective implementation strategies, reviewing joint progress, and nurturing collaboration and innovation. 

Participants heard firsthand stories from impacted countries, communities, and women about how the current plateau in progress affects real lives at the IMNHC2023.

“It’s about accountability, and this is something that we all must take responsibility over. We work in environments where a lot of women and families are not empowered,” said Dr. Queen Dube, Chief of Health Services for the Ministry of Health Malawi and AlignMNH Steering Committee Co-chair.

New data and goals proposed by the launch of the first-ever joint ENAP-EPMM progress report, ‘Improving Maternal and Newborn Health and Survival and Reducing Stillbirth,’ showed that progress in improving survival has stagnated since 2015.

The report, which was released at the conference, detailed how 4.5 million women and babies die every year during pregnancy, childbirth, or the first weeks after birth - mostly from preventable causes.

The findings from the report will help the community align global partnerships and investments to accelerate subnational efforts and progress at the country level.

“We need to ensure that we are not reducing investments in health and social sectors, and reorient towards primary healthcare that delivers for maternal, newborn, and child health,” said Dr. Anshu Banerjee, Director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Aging at the World Health Organisation (WHO) and AlignMNH Steering Committee Co-chair.

“By bringing services closer to the community and the people, and ensuring that they are provided with quality care, we can prevent many of the complications that we are dealing with now or identify and address them at an earlier stage.”

The conference is hosted by the Government of South Africa and AlignMNH – a global initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and in partnership with UNFPA, UNICEF, and World Bank.  Approximately 1,700 delegates from 96 countries – including 28 official country delegations – participated in more than 200 sessions focused on accelerating progress and fostering solutions for maternal and newborn health. 

“To save lives, we must strengthen the quality of care - not just by investing in individuals and their skills and in commodities. But by also investing in the teams who deliver care and the systems in which they deliver it,” said USAID Assistant Administrator for Global Health Dr. Atul Gawande.

Many emerging solutions to the multi-faceted problems presented were on display at the Technical Marketplace, including innovations in mobile imaging, AI-powered ultrasounds, and new clinical interventions.

One such promising intervention called E-MOTIVE released new outcomes from a study that found accurate measures of blood loss using a simple, low-cost blood measurement drape, and applying comprehensive WHO-recommended treatments.

This resulted in a 60 percent reduction in bleeding, which means women were far less likely to die, the report noted.

“What got us here is not going to necessarily get us there. We have to continue to evolve systems and health services,” said Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Deputy Director of Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health Dr. Jeffrey Smith. “That’s why this conference is so important - because this community needs to continue to learn and evolve as we reduce mortality.”

If current trends persist, more than 60 countries are not set to meet the maternal, newborn, and stillborn mortality reduction targets in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030. Coming together at IMNHC 2023, and every two years thereafter, will mark important milestones at our current midpoint of the SDGs, the conference organisers added.


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