Good health and well-being is surely something we all wish for in our lives, but it is also a global goal since this will inevitably be a sign of a prosperous world.
The aim is to improve reproductive and maternal and child health; end the epidemics of HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases; reduce non-communicable and environmental diseases; achieve universal health coverage; and ensure universal access to safe, affordable and effective medicines and vaccines.
Without any doubt, a wide range of ambitious outcomes, towards which world leaders are committed by supporting research and development, increasing health financing, and strengthening the capacity of all countries to reduce and manage health risks.
Health risks are quite broad, including infectious and non-communicable diseases or road traffic deaths. Among the highest priorities on an global scale we still find maternal and child mortality rates.
Between the years 2000 and 2015, the global maternal mortality ratio, or number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, declined by 37 per cent, to an estimated ratio of 216 per 100,000 live births in 2015. The target established in the 2030 Agenda is 70 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Almost all maternal deaths occur in low-resource settings and can be prevented, being one important factor the assistance of skilled health-care personnel. Another essential factor is the access to appropriate sexual and reproductive health services, and thus preventing unintended pregnancy and reducing adolescent childbearing.
Childbearing in adolescence has steadily declined in almost all regions, but wide disparities persist: in 2015, the birth rate among adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 ranged from 7 births per 1,000 girls in Eastern Asia to 102 births per 1,000 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Worldwide, in 2015, approximately 3 in 4 women of reproductive age (15 to 49 years of age) who were married or in union satisfied their need for family planning by using modern contraceptive methods; in Sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania, however, the share was less than half.
Under-five mortality rates fell rapidly from 2000 to 2015, declining by 44% globally. Nevertheless, an estimated 5.9 million children under the age of 5 died in 2015, with a global under-five mortality rate of 43 per 1,000 live births.
The neonatal mortality rate, that is, the likelihood of dying in the first 28 days of life, declined from 31 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2000 to 19 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015. Over that period, progress in the rate of child survival among children aged 1 to 59 months outpaced advances in reducing neonatal mortality; as a result, neonatal deaths now represent a larger share (45 per cent) of all under-five deaths.
What does this mean and what does it look like?
Sub-Saharan Africa is again one of the most vulnerable regions in this case. Above I stated that the global maternal mortality ratio declined to an estimated ratio of 216 per 100,000 live births in 2015. The estimated number for the country we will get to know next was 1,150 in the year 2017. As for neonatal mortality (globally: 19 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015), the estimation is 90.4.
The country with these tremendous figures is South Sudan.
The major complications that account for most of the maternal deaths are severe bleeding, infections, complications from delivery or unsafe abortion. The remainder are caused by or associated with infections such as malaria or related to chronic conditions like cardiac diseases or diabetes.
As for maternal and child mortality, there exists an additional risk in this country: the consequences of its civil war. South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 and is thus a very young country. However this independence was preceded and followed by civil war. According to UNICEF, 2.4 million children have been forced to flee their homes, more than 250,000 children could starve to death by July if they do not get the aid they need to survive, and over 19,000 children have been recruited into the conflict.
You will probably have no problem in finding heart-wrenching images on the global web regarding this situation. But I would like you to accompany me on the journey to discover this country and its people from the perspective of resilience.
One is related to the history of the tribes that have inhabited the area for thousands of years and their relationship with their cattle.
And then there is the story of Emmanuel Jal, a child soldier in the 1990s, who turned his past into the mission to spread peace as a recording artist.
You can either listen to his TED talk https://www.ted.com/talks/emmanuel_jal_the_music_of_a_war_child
Or to the song of his campaign “We want peace”.