Maternal and child health

Picture of a young woman holding her newborn child
Indonesian mum Santi Febrianti cuddles her newborn baby - born safely at a health centre 35 kilometres from Santi's village.

Women and children in the developing world are dying from causes that are preventable or treatable.

Every year, more than 6 million children die before they reach their fifth birthday. They mostly die from diseases that are rare in the developed world: pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria. And every year, hundreds of thousands of women die during pregnancy or childbirth because they can’t access appropriate healthcare.

The health of mothers and children, particularly newborns, is closely linked. If a mother dies, her child is ten times more likely to die before the age of five than a child whose mother survives.

Mothers who are poorly nourished, or suffer from malaria or HIV/AIDS, or who do not have access to quality antenatal care are already at a severe disadvantage when they become pregnant.

It doesn’t have to be this way!

Proven, cost-effective solutions exist that could save five million lives a year:

  • Immunisation against early childhood diseases like pneumonia and measles.
  • Insecticide-treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding (feeding a newborn only breast milk for the first six months of life) to provide babies with powerful antibodies, the best natural protection against infection and disease.
  • Oral rehydration (a sugar, salt and clean water mix) to help prevent death from diarrhoea.
  • More skilled birth attendants, such as midwives, to educate and support women and their babies during pregnancy, childbirth and after birth.
  • Access to nutritious food and micronutrients (like Vitamin A and iron) because children who are well nourished are less likely to get sick.
  • Access to clean, safe drinking water and improved hygiene practices to reduce the risk of diarrhoeal infection.

We know these solutions work. We have already seen a significant decline in maternal and child deaths. In 1990, the number of children dying before the age of five was over 12 million every year. Now, despite population growth, that figure is less 7 million. Maternal deaths declined 47 percent over the same period. But change isn’t happening fast enough; these solutions are not reaching enough women and children.

Take Action!

Find out about World Vision’s global Child Health Now campaign and how you can help improve the health of mothers and children worldwide.


  • The Killer Gap: A global index of health inequity for children
    Open pdf >
  • Fragile but not helpless: Scaling up nutrition in fragile and conflict-affected States
    Open pdf >
  • Within Reach: Ending preventable child deaths
    Open pdf >
  • The Nutrition Barometer - Gauging national responses to undernutrition - report
    Open pdf >
  • The Best Start - Saving Children's Lives in their First Thousand Days - report
    Open pdf >
  • Never had a chance - progress towards MDGS and impact on children - report
    Open pdf >
  • East Africa Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Project
    Open pdf >
  • Child Health Now - campaign introduction brochure
    Open pdf >
See all resources

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