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Maternal and Child Health

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In the 1980's, the United States increased funding for MCH-related programs. At that time, it was estimated that 17 million children under the age of 5 died every year. By 2006, through the efforts of many international aid organizations, the annual number of deaths of children under the age of 5 is 10 million.

HHS works to improve the health of women and their children across several organizations.

World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7, 2013)

World Breastfeeding Week is a time to educate parents and communities about and to advocate for the importance of breastfeeding. This year’s theme, “Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers,” aims to support mothers and foster breastfeeding-friendly environments through advocacy within governments and health care systems and among families, workplaces and social settings.

Nursing and Midwife Education

Developing countries sometimes experience a disparity between what nurses and midwifes are being taught and their national regulatory standards and legislation governing the professions. HHS supports the Africa Health Profession Collaborative with updating legislative frameworks and continuing professional development programs for nurses and midwives in Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mauritius and Seychelles.

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HIV/AIDS: Preventing Mother to Child Transmission and Pediatric AIDS

Without diagnosis and treatment, about 35 percent of HIV-infected pregnant women will transmit HIV to their infants. As a result, approximately 1,000 HIV-infected children are born every day, accounting for about 370,000 new pediatric infections annually, 85 percent of which are in 25 sub-Saharan African countries. Without antiretroviral drugs, half of these children die by age two. Of the estimated 2.3 million children worldwide with HIV, 1.27 million are estimated to need treatment and only 356,000 (28 percent) receive it. HHS provides technical assistance and works to identify best practices for scaling up effective and sustainable pediatric HIV treatment and care programs. PEPFAR countries benefit from this work and include Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. For information and links see the main HIV/AIDS page.

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Reducing Infant and Child Mortality and Improving Child Health

Birth Defects

Birth defects are among the leading causes of infant and child mortality with an estimated 4.9 million birth defect pregnancies worldwide each year. The majority of these occur in low and middle income countries.

Birth defect trends and risk factors are difficult to monitor because many countries do not have systems that can accurately monitor prevalence birth defects. HHS works with partner organizations to expand monitoring systems and improve laboratory capacity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researches and tracks birth defects and coordinates the surveillance and research activities of about 40 member programs of the International Clearing house for Birth Defects Surveillance and Research Exit Disclaimer. CDC also maintains the International Micronutrient Malnutrition Prevention and Control (IMMPaCt),  working with global partners to contribute skills and resources to eliminate vitamin and mineral deficiencies throughout the world.

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Dengue is a major cause of child mortality in Asia. The Dengue Branch at CDC is located at San Juan, Puerto Rico, and is the largest research unit in the world dedicated to finding better ways to diagnose and prevent dengue. An August 2011 CDC report called Dengue Virus Infection in Africa states that incidence of dengue has increased worldwide in recent decades, but little is known about its incidence in Africa.

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Diarrheal Diseases

Diarrheal diseases cause an estimated 1.4 million deaths per year in children under 5 years old. In developing countries, diarrheal diseases are also a leading cause of death from infections among persons with HIV. Lack of access to water and sanitation and poor hygiene are responsible for most of these deaths. Poor nutrition is also an important factor in diarrheal disease risk. For more information, see CDC website on Diarrheal Diseases in Less Developed Countries and USAID's information on controlling diarrheal diseases.

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Vaccine Preventable Diseases

The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that about 1.5 million children under age 5 years continue to die annually from diseases that are preventable via the administration of vaccines, making up approximately 20 percent of overall childhood mortality. Vaccines can prevent pneumonia and diarrhea, the two leading causes of death among children under age 5.  Other immunizations that can improve maternal and child health are tetanus immunization of pregnant women and polio immunization. For more information, see CDC information on Vaccines and Preventable Diseases and how to prevent pneumonia.

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Reducing Maternal Mortality and Improving Maternal Health

Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is the 3rd most common female cancer worldwide. It accounted for 275,000 deaths during 2008. The vast majority, 88 percent, of these deaths occurred in developing countries, where HIV prevalence is often high. HHS provides government-to-government technical assistance on cervical cancer prevention policy and program development as well as guidance regarding best practices to monitor and evaluate patients. HHS also contributes as a member of a WHO panel that updates the WHO cervical cancer prevention guide [PDF- 3.46 MB] Exit Disclaimer.

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Women Deliver 2013

Logo of Women Deliver conference that says, "Women Deliver. Invest in girls and women - it pays". Links to Women Deliver conference website.

Where: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
When: May 28-30, 2013

One of our most valuable investments is in girls and women. The Women Deliver 2013 conference is an important date in the international population and development calendar. With the 2015 Millennium Development Goal deadline rapidly approaching, the time is now to deliver for girls and women. Women Deliver 2013 will serve as a global platform for ensuring that the health and rights of girls and women remain top priorities now, and for decades to come.


Reproductive Health

The CDC Division of Reproductive Health works globally to promote gender equity, reduce infant mortality, reduce maternal mortality, and control infectious diseases associated with human reproduction. HHS supports and participates in Global Health Initiative's (GHI) Women, Girls and Gender Equality (WGGE) task force, identifying gender needs and developing training to help countries implement gender programs. Infant mortality rates are reduced by increasing availability of safe emergency pregnancy care and training doctors and nurses to promote safe breast feeding for HIV infected women and other support and guidance related to pregnancy, delivery, post-partum periods. For more information, see Global Health Initiative Supplemental Guidance on Women, Girls, and Gender Equality Principle.

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Globally, untreated maternal syphilis still causes more than 650,000 adverse pregnancy outcomes, including about 350,000 pre-birth deaths, each year. The overwhelming majority of these are in countries with limited laboratory capacity for syphilis testing as part of basic pregnancy care. Congenital syphilis, passed from mother to child, can be eliminated through universal screening of pregnant women early in pregnancy, and prompt treatment with at least one injection of penicillin. HHS works with partners such as WHO, UNICEF, USAID and academic partners to study and improve current programs to provide screening and treatment services. For basic information about syphilis, download this CDC fact sheet [PDF- 588 KB].

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Tuberculosis (TB)

In 2009, there were 9.4 million TB cases worldwide of which 3.3 million were among women. There were 1.7 million deaths from TB, 600,000 of which were women. It is estimated that children under the age of 15 years old account for 11 percent of TB cases worldwide. HHS works with in-country CDC offices, USAID, and other partners to provide collaboration on research projects, and international policy/guidance.  Learn more about TB on the Tuberculosis page.

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  • Each year more than 500,000 women, 99 percent of them in developing countries, die from pregnancy- and child birth-related complications (USAID)
  • 15 to 20 million women suffer debilitating consequences of pregnancy (USAID)
  • Annually, 4 million newborns die in the first four weeks of life, accounting for 40 percent of all deaths among children under the age of 5

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