Maternal and newborn health

Despite a global decline, maternal and neonatal mortality rates are still unacceptably high, with substantial inequalities around the world. Developing regions are especially affected: maternal mortality is still 14 times higher than in the developed world. Reduction in neonatal mortality is also progressing much slower in developing regions compared to the overall reduction in under-five mortality rates. The differences can be explained by the (non)availability of adequate, accessible, affordable and appropriate care, with quality care increasingly identified as a key factor in reducing illness and mortality. At KIT’s health unit we work towards better health for mothers and newborns, using our broad experience in this field.

Challenges for maternal and newborn health

Challenges that contribute to maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity included early marriage and early pregnancy, unmet need for family planning, and high rates of unintended pregnancies – often leading to unsafe abortions. Evidence to guide and prioritise effective responses to address the above challenges is mostly available. But details on context-specific conditions for implementation and the scaling-up of interventions remains a challenge. Implementation is hindered by a lack of adequate human resources and has spurred efforts to strengthen the role of Community Health Workers. However the integration of these interventions into health systems remains problematic.

Focus on hard-to-reach groups

The KIT Health Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) team works in close collaboration with partners to address these challenges. We work on the generation of knowledge and building the capacity of community and non-governmental organisations that support vulnerable populations such as: young girls giving birth, women living in remote rural areas or in poor urban areas, marginalised groups such as nomadic populations, and those affected by conflict.

We also work on maternal health from a health systems perspective focusing on:

  • Health system strengthening and the integration of maternal health into the health system
  • Research and implementation of financial models to support maternal and newborn health, such as performance based financing
  • Implementation of mechanisms for continuous quality improvement in maternal and newborn health
  • Generating evidence for action and policy reform
  • Human resources for (maternal) health
  • Mobile communication technology in maternal health

Some examples of our work to improve maternal and newborn health include:

  • Evaluations on interventions implemented to improve maternal and newborn health
  • Capacity strengthening for implementation of quality improvement and financial models to support maternal and newborn health in Tajikistan
  • Strengthening capacity of health providers in advocacy for safe abortion and policy reform