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Development aid for maternal and child health stalls

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Experts warn of worrying slowdown despite increasing number of donors

Official development aid for maternal, newborn and child health activities dipped slightly for the first time in 2010, according to analysis by researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

The new figures, from the Countdown to 2015 group, are published in The Lancet as part of a special issue coinciding with the 67th meeting of the United Nations General Assembly

The study shows that the total volume of aid given decreased slightly despite an increasing number of donors being recorded.

As the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals approaches, recent estimates suggest that many of the countries which currently have the highest burden of maternal, newborn, and child deaths will fall short of targets for improving child survival and reducing maternal mortality.

The study examines trends in the quantity of official development aid (ODA), which could be from a nation or an organisation intended to promote economic or welfare development, provided to the 74 countries monitored by the Countdown group. Countdown to 2015 is a WHO- and UNICEF-led collaboration which tracks progress towards fulfilling Millennium Development Goals to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health.

While the total volume of aid provided to these countries increased steadily from 2003 to 2009, there was a decrease of 0•5% ($32 million) between 2009 and 2010, even though the authors tracked six donors newly reporting provision of this sort of assistance in 2010.

Lead author Justine Hsu, a Research Fellow in Health Economics in the School’s Department of Global Health and Development, said: “This initial sign of a levelling off in funding for maternal, newborn, and child health is against a backdrop of a slowdown in the rate of increases in total ODA across all sectors in recent years. The recent slowdown in the rate of funding increases is worrying, and likely to partly result from the present financial crisis.

“For many of the countries who receive this aid, having a steady supply of aid is essential if they are to meet international targets for reducing maternal and child mortality. If aid begins to drop or becomes more uncertain, this could have devastating effects on the health—and survival—of millions of women and children worldwide.”

Professor Anne Mills, who co-authored the report, said: “This paper demonstrates the critical importance of monitoring flows of money to help ensure that donors deliver on their promises. If funding flows decrease, services will suffer and mortality increase.”

(Image: African mother carries child in a traditional way. Credit: iStockphoto.com/poco_bw)

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