Countries with higher rates of child mortality and morbidity are especially challenged, including Tanzania.
A senior official of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Bernadette Daelmans, made the call on the sidelines of the 2018 Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) Forum being held in New Delhi, India.
Dr Bernadette Daelmans was speaking in an interview with The Guardian on what can be done to cut down on child mortality and morbidity incidences around the world.
She had just made a presentation on ‘Multi-sectoral Partnerships for Child Health: To build momentum on childhood pneumonia, small and sick newborns’ at the forum organized by WHO in collaboration with UNICEF, USAID, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), and Save the Children.
In Tanzania, according to the WHO, the ratio of maternal deaths stands at 578 per 100,000, representing 18 per cent of all deaths of women aged between 15 and 49 years.
Although at least 94 per cent of women in Tanzania receive antenatal care (ANC) from health professionals at least once, the number of women who seek ANC at least four times decreased from 71 per cent in 1999 to 62 per cent in 2005.
Dr Daelmans, who is the policy, planning, and programs coordinator at the WHO’s Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescents Health Department, said the world is still losing too many under-five children from causes that can be prevented through availability of drugs and simple interventions like Kangaroo mother care (KMC).
KMC is mother-to-newborn skin-to-skin contact that aims at giving a newborn warmth (heat). According to Dr Daelmans, improving quality of care (QoC) in this department will save many infants from needless deaths.
Poor QoC in many health facilities is an important barrier to ending preventable children mortality and morbidity, she stressed, adding that many countries - including Tanzania - are reporting increases in the proportion of deliveries attended by skilled health personnel.
“Quality of care reflects the available physical infrastructure, supplies, management, and human resources with the knowledge, skills and capacity to deal with pregnancy and childbirth,” she elaborated.
She further explained that QoC also relates to client experiences of care, including absence of mistreatment and lack of support, meets criteria of being safe, effective, timely, efficient, equitable, and people-centered.
Dr Daelmans advised countries to establish leadership groups at national, district and facility levels; conduct situational analyses and identify the main barriers to providing quality services; adapt, adopt and promote clear national standards for quality of care.
According to Save the Children, 5.9 million children die from preventable causes every year globally.
The charity organization says the leading cause of deaths in children under the age of five are complications from pre-term birth (premature) deliveries, pneumonia, complications during labour and delivery, diarrhea, and sepsis or meningitis.
Although in recent years there has been increased focus on addressing newborns health issues, pneumonia remains a forgotten killer despite the fact that it contributes to almost 15 percent of all newborn deaths in countries like India.
The PMNCH Forum, which started on Monday, is hosted by India’s health ministry and brings together 1,200 participants from around the globe to share knowledge, solutions, and best practices in improving women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health.