Globally, almost 300,000 mothers die from complications during pregnancy and childbirth every year. Add to this the 7.6 million children who die before they turn five and the true scale of this crisis is apparent. The real tragedy is that many of these deaths can be prevented.
Across the developing world, almost half of the total number of child deaths are neonatal - occurring in the first month of a child's life.
If a child survives this first month, diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia can be lethal. These diseases contribute to 30% of all deaths of children under five, and malnutrition is a major factor in another 30%. Depending on where a child lives, malaria, measles and AIDS are big health risks.
And yet many of these diseases can be prevented, through improved sanitation and better health practices, such as immunisation. Health threats to children can be addressed through improving access to medical treatment and increasing community awareness of disease prevention and other good health practices.
The problem is, healthcare isn’t as easily available - or nearly as affordable - in developing nations as it is in Australia.
In addition, 99% of maternal deaths (i.e. deaths during childbirth) occur in developing nations. Of this disturbing total, more than 30% die of haemorrhage; anaemia claims 12.8%; sepsis and infections another 11.5% and hypertension 9.1%.
Adolescent mothers and their babies are at high risk of injury and death. Girls aged 15-19 are twice as likely to die in childbirth as women in their 20s. Girls under 15 are five times as likely to die in childbirth as women in their 20s.
When girls marry young due to social and cultural expectations, or when they are forced into marriage for financial reasons, the consequences are enormous. Often expected to bear children immediately, these girls become pregnant while their bodies are still forming, putting themselves and their babies at risk.
There has been no improvement in these grim statistics for the last 20 years. Yet, many of these conditions are treatable. What most women require is that skilled birth attendants, such as midwives or doctors, are accessible during pregnancies and present for deliveries.
With over 70% of doctors in developing nations living in big cities people in rural areas miss out. Worldwide, 40% of mothers give birth without a skilled attendant present. When things go wrong, getting help entails a journey to another village - often hours away, and commonly, on foot.
At World Vision we want to support developing countries to ensure better healthcare for mothers and children. We recognise the urgent need to achieve the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 to help close the gap in healthcare between the developed and the developing world. You can get involved. Join our Child Health Now campaign today.