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Using science to save lives of mothers and children in Africa
Date:11/9/2009

ACCRA, Ghana -- The lives of almost 4 million women, newborns, and children in sub-Saharan Africa could be saved every year if well-established, affordable health care interventions reached 90 percent of families, according to a joint report by the national science academies of seven African countries. Many African nations are underutilizing existing scientific knowledge to save lives, says the report, which calls on scientists, health care providers, policymakers, and development agencies to partner on ways to use the latest evidence to fill the gap between the discovery of new interventions and their delivery to families most in need. The report was released today at the annual conference of the African Science Academy Development Initiative, which aims to strengthen effective links between African science academies and national decision makers.

Half of the world's maternal and child deaths each year occur in sub-Saharan Africa, where 265,000 mothers die during pregnancy or childbirth, 1.2 million babies die in their first month of life, and an additional 3.2 million do not reach their fifth birthday. More than 880,000 stillbirths go largely unnoticed by global researchers and policymakers. The U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals call for reducing under-five mortality by two-thirds (MDG4) and maternal mortality by three-fourths (MDG5) by 2015. While acknowledging that most African nations are not on track to meet the goals by then, the report highlights noteworthy exceptions. For example, Eritrea has achieved an annual 4 percent rate of reduction in under-five mortality since 1990, Tanzania and Ghana have experienced up to 30 percent declines since 2000, and Malawi was recently declared itself on track for MDG4.

"Ghana has achieved a reduction in under-five mortality over the past five years as well as an increase in skilled attendance at birth, but to get on track for the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, we [must] value the evide
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Contact: William Kearney
wkearney@nas.edu
202-334-2138
National Academy of Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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