Zimbabwe is among the Seven countries in the SADC region that might fail to meet the Every New-born Action Plan Targets (ENAP) target of reducing the prevalence of stillbirths to less than 12 per 1,000 births.
By Michael Gwarisa
According to a Report of the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, titled A Neglected Tragedy The Global Burden of Stillbirth, about half of all stillbirths occur in six countries namely India, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, China, Pakistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and with current trends, more than half of all stillbirths in 2030 will occur in sub-Saharan Africa.
A map in the report demonstrating the progress countries have made regarding the attainment of the ENAP target shows that Zimbabwe, Madagascar, South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Angola, and Tanzania are likely to miss the 2030 ENAP target and will probably attain their target in 2031. On the other hand, Botswana, Mozambique, and the DRC will only meet their target by 2050.
Progress in reducing the stillbirth rate has been slow compared to what has been achieved in the mortality rate among children under 5. The global annual rate of reduction* in the stillbirth rate was 2.3 percent from 2000 to 2019, lower than the 2.9 percent in neonatal mortality and 4.3 percent in mortality among children aged 1–59 months over the same period,” reads part of the report.
The report added that the world was not on track to meet the ENAP stillbirth target by 2030 if current trends continue.
“Although 128 of the 195 countries studied have already met the target, with a further 11 on track to meet it, 56 countries will miss the target (see Figure 10 and Map 3). More than half (34) of these countries will not meet the target by 2050, and of these, eight will not do so by the end of the century.
“The majority (27) of countries projected to meet the target only after 2050 are in sub-Saharan Africa. If current trends of relatively low progress continue, the worldwide burden of stillbirths will become more concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, with the share increasing from 42 per cent in 2019 to 50 per cent by 2030 (see Figure 11).”
They added that action is needed in all countries and regions to close equity gaps. But to meet the ENAP milestones between 2020 and 202535 and achieve the 2030 stillbirth target, urgent attention and investment are needed.
Forty-five countries need to more than double their annual rate of reduction to achieve the target. Strong political will, sound policies, and targeted investment along the continuum of care for every mother and child – especially to improve universal access to high-quality antenatal and delivery care – must be put in place now to prevent millions of stillbirths and maternal and neonatal deaths and to ensure a bright future for every baby. Increased accountability for stillbirths and their families is needed to ensure accelerated progress over the next decade.
“Without urgent action, millions of families will experience the tragic stillbirth of a baby in the next decade. The decisions and policies made today will determine where things stand in 2030, and if the ENAP target will be met. This translates into lives saved – or lost. The differences between slowing, maintaining or accelerating momentum are stark.Over the last two decades, some progress has been seen in reducing the stillbirth rate by investing in high-quality antenatal and delivery care.
“Without continued investment, the momentum of the last 20 years will diminish and lives will be needlessly lost. If the stillbirth rate for each country stays at the 2019 level, 22.1 million babies will be stillborn between now and 2030 . Even more babies could be stillborn if investment is paused and stillbirth rates increase.”
If the world sustains the progress made in the past two decades through 2030, 2.6 million more babies will live. The second scenario promises a better world for women and children, but one that still involves the loss of 19.5 stillborn babies from 2020 to 2030. The world must do better. If progress is accelerated to meet the ENAP target by 2030, 16.6 million babies are projected to be stillborn over the next decade – and an additional 2.9 million lives will be saved. The lives of these girls and boys depend on accelerated progress. About 7 in 10 of these preventable deaths would involve sub-Saharan African children. If countries meet the ENAP target earlier – which is possible, in some countries – even more babies will get the chance to live.
More ambitiously, if each country’s stillbirth rate reached or fell below the current average rate in high-income countries (3.0 stillbirths per 1,000 total births) by 2030, an additional 6.6 million lives could be saved. Although this scenario is aspirational, it shows what is possible with strong health systems and high-quality care.