Press releases

Slow rate of decline in maternal and child mortality worries WHO

Fifty-eighth Session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, 10-14 September 2007, Jeju, Republic of Korea

Jeju, Republic of Korea, 11 September 2007—Dr Shigeru Omi, World Health Organization Regional Director for the Western Pacific, today expressed concern over the slow rate of decline in maternal and child mortality in the Region.

On the average, the decline in child mortality today is at a slower rate as compared to the impressive decline following the child survival revolution in the 1980s.

Reduction of child mortality and improvement of maternal health are included in the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals signed by world leaders in September 2000. It seeks to reduce child mortality by two thirds and reduce maternal mortality by three quarters by 2015 compared to 2000 levels.

Dr Omi told the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, WHO's governing body in the Region, that although many countries in the Region have made progress towards improving child survival and maternal health, the gains have been uneven within and across countries.

The Regional Committee listened to the Regional Director's report on how countries were progressing with the Millennium Development Goals which set targets by 2015. Some 100 representatives from Member States in the Region are reviewing WHO's work in the Region.

Dr Omi urged Member States to redouble efforts to meet health targets for the reduction of child and maternal deaths. "The support and commitment for child and maternal health by high-level national authorities has been inadequate, resulting in still unacceptably high levels of child and maternal deaths in many countries and settings. Low coverage and poor access for essential services brought about by geographical and financial barriers pose a challenge to several countries," Dr Omi said.

An estimated 766 000 children die annually in the Region before reaching their 5th birthday—or almost 2100 under-5 deaths every day—from common conditions, including neonatal causes, pneumonia, diarrhoea, measles and malaria. Undernutrition further compounds the problem. More than 95% of these deaths occur in six countries in the Region.

The slow decline of child mortality is attributed to:

  • inadequate high-level support and commitment
  • low coverage and poor access for essential services
  • lack of sustained or accelerated child survival interventions, such as immunizations
  • weaknesses in health delivery systems
  • lack of an integrated outcome-oriented monitoring and evaluation for maternal and child health

Dr Omi urged the Regional Committee to reaffirm and strengthen the commitment of Member States to implement national child and maternal survival plans.

For more information or request to interview WHO specialists, please call Ms Marilu Lingad at (63) 918 918 1094; email: or Mr Peter Cordingley at (+63) 917 844 3688; email: .

Print      Bookmark   Feedback   More