In early May, we witnessed a spectacular commitment to “making every mother and baby count” here in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through their Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program, and in partnership with the Bangladesh Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW), convened an important series of meetings focused on saving the lives of mother and their babies.  We wanted to tally for you the numbers that express just how much every mother and baby count:

  • Participation included more than 275 international maternal and newborn health professionals;
  • With over 29 countries represented;
  • Including over 100 individuals from Bangladesh.
  • But why?  Because just 1 maternal or child death is more than just a tragic occurrence. It affects the entire family, it affects social cohesion, and it dampens the economic growth of the countries. Data shows that after a mother dies there is an increased risk of death for surviving children.
  • Here in Bangladesh, about 20 women die every day from childbirth, about half of these due to 2 main causes, postpartum hemorrhage that is to say excessive bleeding and eclampsia (high blood pressure leading to convulsions). These are the very 2 factors that kill 50% of mothers in developing countries around the world.
  • During 3 days, over 78 speakers presented on the 5 major causes of maternal and newborn mortality; and participants engaged broadly in 3 general themes; celebrating past success in saving maternal and newborn lives; implementation of current best practices (and the scaling up these important activities), and the need to continue research, innovation and doing more of what we know works to improve health outcomes for women and children.
  • Richard Greene, Mission Director/Bangladesh, began the conference by highlighting this past success by saying, “Since I was here 18 years ago, there has been a dramatic seed change.  Both Nepal and Bangladesh have cut their maternal mortality by 40% over the past 10 years.  And Cambodia has halved their maternal mortality rate in just 5 years.”
  • But, even before the conference even began, more than 30 journalists attended a conference pre-briefing and training by Voice of America on the importance of covering public health issues in the media.
  • To ensure these important topics continue to be highlighted in the media, 4 celebrities were chosen as brand ambassadors for the conference.
  • Using web-based platforms, all 78 presentations were web-cast live, 2000 questions were posted on social media sites, and over 40 articles were published in local and regional papers.

In the closing session, Md. Humayun Kabir, the Senior Secretary at the MOHFW, closed with declaring he “wishes to integrate the new ideas and best practices to curb maternal and child deaths in Bangladesh”.  And that is what this conference was all about – making women and babies count.

To learn more, please log in to the USAID Bangladesh Facebook page  to see the daily updates about this conference. Let us know what you find to be the most interesting!  Complete conference-related information is also available on the official website.