Universal healthcare: Miles to go

22 September, 2019 12:00 AM printer

It is a wonderful piece of news that Bangladesh has made great strides in reducing infant, child and maternal mortality in the last couple of decades. As per the World Health Organization (WHO), Bangladesh, Belarus, Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Malawi, Morocco, Mongolia, Rwanda, Timor-Leste and Zambia are some of the countries that progressed in reducing child and maternal mortality by focusing on primary healthcare and universal health coverage.

Success in Bangladesh has been due to political will to improve access to quality healthcare by investing in public health, introducing free services for children and expectant mothers. Access to family planning facilities has also contributed to the success rate.

Sadly, the estimates also show vast inequalities worldwide, with women and children in sub-Saharan Africa facing higher risk of death than in all other regions. Levels of maternal deaths are nearly 50 times higher for women in sub-Saharan Africa and babies are 10 times more likely to die in their first month of birth, compared to developed countries.

Children face the highest risk of death in the first month, especially if they are born too soon or too small, have complications during birth, congenital defects, or contract infections. About a third of these deaths occur within the first days and nearly three quarters in the first week alone. But new estimates reveal that 6.2 million children below 15 years died in 2018, of these 5.3 million occurred in the first 5 years, and half of these in the first month of life, mostly of preventable causes.

"In countries that provide everyone with safe, affordable, high-quality health services, women and babies survive and thrive," says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. "Around the world, birth is a joyous occasion. Yet, every 11 seconds, a birth is a family tragedy. A skilled pair of hands to help mothers and newborns around the time of birth, along with clean water, adequate nutrition, basic medicines and vaccines, can make the difference between life and death." says Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.

Although much has been achieved, a lot more needs to be done for optimum universal healthcare. As member of the family of nations, any lapse in another part of the world actually pulls all of us backwards. Knowledge sharing can help all nations to achieve 100 per cent success in public healthcare.