News Release

Every death counts: Saving the lives of South Africa's mothers, babies and children

Peer-Reviewed Publication

The Lancet_DELETED

The authors of three South African health reports on maternal, neonatal, and child deaths have come together to launch a new report entitled Every Death Counts, which analyses this data and puts forward key strategies to reduce this terrible burden in the country. The detail is contained in a Public Health paper in this week’s Countdown Special Issue of The Lancet.

Joy Lawn, Saving Newborn Lives/Save the Children-US, and colleagues from the South Africa Every Death Counts Writing Group say: “All indications are that maternal and child mortality has increased since the baseline for Millennium Development Goals in 1990.” The figures are disturbing – each year in South Africa, at least 1,600 mothers die due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Some 20,000 babies are stillborn and another 22,000 die before they reach on month of age. And in total, at least 75,000 children die before their fifth birthday. This terrible toll is due to five major health challenges – pregnancy and childbirth complications, newborn illness, childhood illness, HIV and AIDS, and malnutrition.

South Africa is one of just 12 counties globally in which the child mortality rate has increased instead of falling since 1990. As a result, the country now has to achieve a yearly rate of reduction of 14% to meet MDG4 by 2015.

The authors say: “This toll is too high in view of South Africa’s status as a middle-income country and capacity to provide services…The existing high coverage of many key interventions presents an opportunity to save lives by focussing on high-quality services and integration of HIV/AIDS care, while addressing inequity by reach the poorest and marginalised populations.” Many of these lives could be saved – over 40,000 babies and children each year – if high-impact interventions reached all families in South Africa. A high proportion of women’s lives could also be saved with more investment in the same solutions that saves babies and children. There are success stories – individual clinicians and hospitals that have made a big difference in a short time using local data. But national progress requires national leadership.

They conclude: “National mortality audits for mothers, babies, and children are an achievement and present recommendations and strategies to save lives. The new Every Death Counts report brings these aims together as one harmonised set of recommendations. However, if South Africa is to see a reduction in maternal, neonatal, and child mortality, these recommendations need to be fully implemented to turn mortality data into action. This goal needs accountability at all levels. Then every death will truly count.”


Joy Lawn, Saving Newborn Lives/Save the Children-US, T) +27 (0) 21 532 3494/ +27 (0) 798839706 E)

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