Preventing Half the World's Annual Child and Maternal Deaths: The Answer's on the Shelf

Leading African science academies contend in a report released today in Ghana that scaling up affordable medical interventions such as immunizations by 20% could save the lives of about 189,000 770,000 children and young mothers each year in nine countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The region now accounts for more than half of the world's child and maternal deaths every year—about 13,000 deaths a day, with about 1.2 million African babies perishing before they reach 1 month and 3.1 million dying before age 5. Analyzing the data using a software modeling tool, the report estimates that fully implementing well-known medical interventions—including immunizations, insecticide-treated bed nets, and better obstetric equipment—could save nearly 4 million lives a year.

The report by seven academies involved in the African Science Academy Development Initiative—a project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and administered by the U.S. National Academies to strengthen African academies—was released at the initiative’s fifth annual meeting in Accra, Ghana. It concludes that “many African governments are currently under-utilising existing scientific knowledge to save lives.”