Sub-Saharan Africa has only 11% of the world's population, yet more than half of the world's maternal, newborn and child deaths, and two-thirds of the world's Aids deaths.
In the first paper, Dr. Joy Lawn from Save the Children and colleagues report that rapid progress is being made for some health challenges but the five biggest challenges for maternal, newborn, and child health in sub-Saharan Africa are complications of pregnancy and childbirth, newborn illness, childhood infections, malnutrition, and HIV/AIDS. Many scientifically proven interventions are available but most are underused in African countries, say the authors. For example, across the region 71% of pregnant women receive at least one antenatal care visit with a doctor, nurse, or midwife. But less than half of all births are attended by skilled personnel, less than a third of mothers and babies receive routine postnatal care, only 29% of children with pneumonia receive antibiotics, and less than a quarter of women have access to contraception.