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April 14, 2008

Few Priority Countries on Track to Meet U.N. Millennium Development Goals on Maternal and Child Health

Less than a quarter of the 68 countries with the highest burden of maternal and child mortality are on track to reach their Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 by 2015, according to a report published in a special issue of The Lancet

Jennifer Bryce, EdD, MEd, a senior scientist with the Bloomberg School’s Department of International Health, was a leading member of the Coverage Writing Group, which prepared the report. Cesar Victora, MD, PhD, a visiting professor in the Department of International Health, chaired the Equity Analysis Working Group, which produced a companion article on inequity of coverage in key interventions.  

Bryce and her colleagues authored “Countdown to 2015 for maternal, newborn, and child survival: the 2008 report on tracking coverage of interventions.” The report focused on the 68 countries that account for 97 percent of maternal and child deaths worldwide. According to the report, only 16 of these 68 priority countries are on track to reach Millennium Development Goals, despite gradual progress. Even within countries that are on track, children from poor families lag well behind their better-off peers, as shown in the equity analyses led by Victora.

The report also found that many factors are in place to make rapid progress towards these goals, including country and donor commitment and a consensus on priority interventions. The authors concluded, “In the 7 years until 2015, the next 2 years before the next Countdown Report will be the most crucial. With strategic decisions and investments, and a focus on partnerships for results, we have the opportunity to see unprecedented progress in these 68 countries. Or will the 2010 report show more of the same gaps and lives lost?

The special issue was launched at a press conference in London on Thursday, April 10. The “Countdown to 2015 Conference” will take place in Cape Town, South Africa, April 17–19. The complete issue here