The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the government of Bangladesh on Tuesday (November 28, 2023) signed a loan agreement for $336.5 million to establish domestic vaccine, therapeutics, and diagnostics manufacturing capacity and strengthen the national regulator to ensure vaccine supply security in Bangladesh. Md. Shahriar Kader Siddiky, secretary, Economic Relations Division, and Edimon Ginting, ADB country director for Bangladesh signed the agreement on behalf of Bangladesh and ADB, respectively. The vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics manufacturing and regulatory strengthening project will establish a vaccine, therapeutic, and diagnostics manufacturing facility and warehousing unit in Essential Drugs Company Limited's (EDCL) existing location at Gopalganj, with a capacity to manufacture 58 million vials of vaccines per year, said the regional development bank. An in-house research and development center will be established to support the production of diagnostic kits and packaging of biosimilar therapeutics. Read: ADB to provide $200 million to promote energy efficiency, transition in Bangladesh It will also support the manufacture of at least two full-cycle vaccines by developing a seed bank, master cell bank, and working cell bank, in addition to at least five fill-and-finish vaccines. “Bangladesh has attained remarkable success in implementing its vaccination programs supported by subsidized vaccines supplied through the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization (GAVI). As Bangladesh graduates from the Least Developed Country status, the supply of vaccine from GAVI will gradually be phased out,” said Country Director Edimon Ginting. “This project will help create vibrant ecosystem for vaccine production in the country, ensuring sustainable supply in the medium-term, and at the same time, building Bangladesh’s capacity to manage future pandemics better,” he added. The manufacturing facility will incorporate features to promote gender equality and social inclusion as well as green and resilient production using less energy and materials while reducing waste and carbon missions. The facility will seek certification from the World Health Organization (WHO) for good manufacturing practices (GMPs). The ADB loan will support the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) to upgrade its regulatory capacity to WHO maturity level 3 and beyond. ADB will help strengthen laboratory quality management and regulatory inspection systems while improving testing capacity modalities in compliance with WHO's Global Benchmarking Tool. Read: JICA to help improve Bangladesh’s justice delivery system It will create a stable, well-functioning, and integrated regulatory system; help foster international collaboration and trade; and improve private sector participation in Bangladesh's pharmaceutical industry. The project will help EDCL and DGDA train their staff in essential GMPs, quality assurance, quality control, validation, and calibration programs in compliance with the biosafety levels, according to ADB. The project is financed through ADB’s $9 billion Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility, launched in December 2020 to provide rapid and equitable vaccine-related support to ADB developing member countries. It builds on ADB’s $940 million support to Bangladesh to purchase safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19 in June 2021. Read more: ADB provides $90 million for clean water, sanitation services in the Hill Tracts
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen on Wednesday (November 01, 2023) thanked the countries, especially neighbouring India, noting that they actively supported Bangladesh’s campaign for Saima Wazed’s win in the WHO South East Asia Regional Director election. “I must thank all the countries, especially India. They helped in our campaign. They actively supported our candidature,” he told reporters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Saima Wazed has been nominated, through an election, as the Regional Director (RD) of the South East Asia Regional Organization (SEARO) of the World Health Organization (WHO) for the term 2024-2028. Bangladesh candidate Saima Wazed wins WHO SEARO Director election The election took place during the 76th session of the Regional Committee for SEARO, the annual governing body meeting of WHO at the regional level, in New Delhi today (November 01, 2023). The election was held by secret ballot with the participation of the 10 member states of the SEARO which were eligible for voting. Saima Wazed bagged eight votes in the bid while the other candidate Dr Shambhu Prasad Acharya, nominated by the Government of Nepal, secured two votes. “I expected 9 votes. Thank God. It was a big challenge. All of us worked very hard. We maintained a very decent campaign,” the foreign minister said. Momen, however, expressed displeasure over mudslinging by a certain group against the Bangladesh candidate. “I found her excellent in technical knowledge and she is also a good organiser,” said the foreign minister. Nomination for WHO Regional Director: Top health experts of the country laud Saima Wazed’s leadership abilities This election with overwhelming support reflects the recognition of Saima’s passion and relentless work in public health and demonstrates the confidence and trust of the region in her leadership skills, the Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi said. “Thank you to WHO SEARO Member States for choosing me to be their next Regional Director,” Saima Wazed said in reaction. She paid tribute to the outgoing Regional Director Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, for her decade of service to the public health of the region. “A special tribute as well for my fellow nominee in this race, Dr. Acharya. In his long and distinguished career, he has been an invaluable asset to WHO - and I hope our region will continue to benefit from his knowledge and experience,” she wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “I look forward to building a healthier South-East Asia,” she added. The nomination will be submitted for appointment by the 154th session of the WHO Executive Board, which takes place from January 22 to 27, 2024 in Geneva, Switzerland. The newly appointed regional director will take office on February 1, 2024 for a five-year term and be eligible for reappointment once. WHO regional director election: Momen conveys Bangladesh’s gratitude to Thailand for support to Saima Wazed Earlier, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in coordination with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, conducted an effective campaign in favour of the Bangladesh candidature since the very beginning of the election process. The SEARO is one of the six regions of WHO with its headquarters in New Delhi, India. It comprises 11 countries, namely, Bangladesh, Bhutan, DPR Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor Leste. The SEARO is headed by the RD who is nominated by the members of the SEARO countries. Saima Wazed presents souvenir to PM Modi in presence of PM Hasina
Saima Wazed, one of the candidates for the post of World Health Organization’s (WHO) regional director for South-east Asia, has expressed optimism about her chances, referring to a lot of “positive feedback.” Saima Wazed, who has worked in the field of autism, speaking to Indian English language news channel WION’s diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal, said, “If elected, my real goal is to ensure that mental health, which has been sorely neglected and is a huge challenge, is incorporated within the entire health system.” WHO's South-east Asia office is one of the six key regional units and works with 11 member states. Asked about her political links, given she is the daughter of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Saima Wazed said, “I have always known who I am, and I know that there will always be a reminder of that, but I was also raised as a refugee, I was also raised by a mother who had lost everything overnight.” Read: Resolving Palestine crisis depends on ‘united efforts’ by Muslim Ummah: PM “When you're the daughter of somebody very, very important and very successful, everybody assumes that things are much easier for you, but you don't get to be successful unless you work hard,” Saima Wazed said. The names of the candidates for the election of the next regional director for WHO SEARO were sent by WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to the relevant member states on August 18, 2023. The candidates are Saima Wazed Putul, nominated by Bangladesh, and Dr Shambhu Prasad Acharya, nominated by Nepal. The Regional Committee of WHO South-east Asia will vote to nominate the next regional director in a closed meeting during its seventy-sixth session from October 30 to November 2, in New Delhi, India. Read:Stop Israel-Palestine war, save women and children: PM Hasina urges world leaders The nomination will then be submitted for appointment by the 154th session of the WHO Executive Board, which takes place from January 22 to 27, 2024 in Geneva, Switzerland. The newly appointed regional director will take office on February 1, 2024 for a five-year term and be eligible for reappointment once.
Saima Wazed has been nominated by the Government of Bangladesh for the post of Regional Director of World Health Organization’s (WHO) South-East Asia Region (SEARO). WHO SEARO is one of the six regional offices of the WHO, composed of representatives of the member states. Read more: UNICEF , WHO for greater breastfeeding support across all workplaces “I am deeply honoured to be nominated by the Government of Bangladesh for WHO SEARO Regional Director,” Saima Wazed said. “If elected, I plan on working in close collaboration with the Member States to realise my vision for the public health policies and practices of our region. I believe in working in partnerships, and hearing from communities themselves to create lasting solutions that work from the ground up. This has characterised my work till date, and this is what I hope to bring to this role.” Saima Wazed’s significant achievements include drafting three international resolutions that were subsequently adopted by member countries of the UN and WHO: — In 2014 at WHO 67.8 Comprehensive and Coordinated Efforts for the Management of Autism Spectrum Disorders. — In 2012 WHO-RC: SEA/RC65/ R8 Comprehensive and Coordinated Efforts for the Management of Autism Spectrum Disorders and Developmental Disabilities. — In 2012 UNGA: 67/82 Addressing the Socioeconomic Needs of Individuals, Families and Societies Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders, Developmental Disorders and Associated Disabilities. Read more: WHO endorses landmark public health decisions on Essential Medicines for Multiple Sclerosis Saima Wazed is currently completing her doctoral studies at Barry University (USA) in Organisational Leadership. She has been an Advisor to the Director General of WHO on Mental Health and Autism since 2019, and is a member of WHO’s Expert Advisory Panel on Mental Health since 2014. In August 2023 she was appointed as an Associate Fellow at the Global Health Program at Chatham House, where she has also been serving since 2022 as a Commissioner at the Commission for Universal Health. Since 2020, she has served as Thematic Ambassador for Vulnerability for the Climate Vulnerable Forum, and from 2017 to 2019 was appointed as WHO SEARO’s Goodwill Ambassador for Autism. In Bangladesh, she is the Chief Advisor for the National Mental Health Strategic Plan 2020-2025, and since 2012 has been Chairperson of the National Advisory Committee on Autism and NDDs. Her current academic and training work includes being Adjunct Faculty at Barry University in the USA, Visiting Faculty at Dhaka University, Visiting Specialist at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital, and Visiting Faculty at the National Institute of Mental Health in Dhaka. She has been invited to speak at several high-level conferences and events around the world, including side events at the UN General Assembly in the USA, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda, the World Assembly of Women in Japan, COP26 and 27 in Scotland and Egypt respectively, UNESCO’s High Level Roundtable in Sri Lanka, the Global Child Nutrition Forum in Cambodia, the World Economic Forum in India, the World Congress of Psychiatry in Portugal, and others. Read more: Cheerful PM’s photo with Joy, Putul from Padma Bridge takes netizens by storm She is a licensed school psychologist, having worked in the public school system of Orange County and Duval County, in Florida (USA) for over three years. Over her years of service, she has received a number of international awards, including a citation for Excellence in Public Health by WHO SEARO, the Distinguished Alumni Award by Barry University in the USA, International Champion Award by Shema Kolainu in the USA, and was listed by Columbia University as an Innovative (Women) Leader in Global Mental Health. The Government of Nepal has nominated its candidate alongside Bangladesh for the post. The Regional Director will be voted on by the eleven WHO SEARO member states: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste. More on Saima Wazed: https://saimawazed.info/ https://www.linkedin.com/in/saimawazed/ https://twitter.com/drSaimaWazed/
Highlighting growing road traffic deaths globally, World Health Organization (WHO) Representative to Bangladesh Dr Bardan Jung Rana has said two deaths per hour in Bangladesh, taking away young lives due to road accidents needs urgent attention. WHO has called for all partners to accelerate efforts to ensure people’s rights to move safely, noting that it is time to rethink mobility and put the safety of the people at the core to ensure roads are safe for all who use them. “Road traffic deaths continue to rise, with around 1.3 million deaths per year globally and as many as 50 million injuries,” Dr Bardan mentioned in his recent Op-Ed. Also Read: 487 deaths in 439 road accidents in Feb: Road Safety Foundation Marking the 7th UN Road Safety Week (15-21 May), he said Bangladesh is a densely populated country, and day by day the incidence of road traffic crashes is increasing. The country enacted Road Transport Act 2018, replacing the Motor Vehicle Ordinance of 1983, and updated its National Road Safety Strategic Action Plan in 2020, showing commitment to establish a reliable and sustainable road transportation system. Also Read: Road crashes kill 285, injures 454 during Eid journey: Report The Directorate General of Health Service under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare recently developed a strategy and action plan to address post-crash response since two-thirds of all road traffic fatalities occur on the way to the hospital and three-fourth do not receive any form of pre-hospital care. “In this matter different donor agencies and organizations are working together to improve the overall road safety situation,” said Dr Bardan. He said ensuring road safety needs multisectoral coordination, providing safer vehicles and roads, improving how people behave on the roads, and ensuring access to quality, life-saving emergency care in case of a crash. The law should be further strengthened to meet global standards, and effective enforcement strategies should be adopted, said the WHO Representative. Road safety is a human right that must not be compromised as they reimagine how they move, he said. Also Read: WHO launches global network to detect and prevent infectious disease threat As per the WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018, an estimated 25,000 people lost their lives in 2016 due to road traffic injuries in Bangladesh, making it the leading cause of death for children and young people aged 5-29 years. The UN General Assembly endorsed the Second Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021–2030 with the explicit target to reduce road deaths and injuries by at least half. The Global Plan highlights that a shift towards people-centered roads and road networks that are planned, designed, built, and operated to eliminate risks – would save lives. Such roads consider first and foremost those most at risk of injury, like children, adolescents, people with disabilities, pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport users. “Making way for walking and cycling can favourably impact health and the environment, allowing people to be physically active and breathe clean air,” said the WHO Representative.
Dhaka’s air ranked 6th most polluted among cities around the world Tuesday (May 23, 2023) morning, as per Air Quality Index (AQI). The air in Dhaka city was categorised as ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’, with an AQI score of 137 at 8:30am. Indonesia’s Jakarta, Pakistan’s Lahore and China’s Shanghai occupied the first three spots on the list, with AQI scores of 168, 162, and 153 respectively. When the AQI value for particle pollution is between 101 and 150, air quality is considered ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’, between 150 and 200 is ‘unhealthy’, between 201 and 300 is said to be 'very unhealthy', while a reading of 301+ is considered 'hazardous', posing serious health risks to residents. Read more: Rain, thundershowers likely in Dhaka, 5 other divisions In Bangladesh, the AQI is based on five criteria pollutants — particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), NO2, CO, SO2, and Ozone. Dhaka has long been grappling with air pollution issues. Its air quality usually turns unhealthy in winter and improves during the monsoon. Air pollution consistently ranks among the top risk factors for death and disability worldwide. As per the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year, largely due to increased mortality from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and acute respiratory infections. Read more: Italy’s deadly floods just latest example of climate change’s all-or-nothing weather extremes
In Bangladesh, we may expect that whatever comes out of the tap will be drinkable. The data, however, suggests a very grim reality. Bangladesh scored 26.90 out of 100 in the 2022 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), meaning the local tap water is one of the most dangerous in the world. Bangladesh ranked fifth in terms of access to safe drinking water in South Asia and 128th overall. In South Asia, Bangladesh is only ahead of Nepal (25.90), India (18.30), and Pakistan (15.30). Read More: On India’s shore, rising salinity means daily water struggle Meanwhile, Sri Lanka ranked first in the region with a score of 46.70, followed by the Maldives (41.2), Bhutan (31.5), and Afghanistan (27.80). The Yale University’s EPI index looks at the quality of drinking water in 180 countries around the world based on the number of age-standardized disability-adjusted life-years lost per 100,000 persons (DALY rate) due to exposure to unsafe drinking water. All of the countries on the list are ranked by a score from 0 to 100, with a score of 100 indicating very safe drinking water and a score of 0 indicating the most unsafe. QS Supplies, one of the UK's largest independent bathroom wholesalers and retailers, has used EPI and CDC data to create a new set of data visualizations to illustrate the severity of the situation and to flag the countries where it is and is not safe to consume the tap water. Read More: Dhaka for enhanced international cooperation for advancing Water Action Agenda The data from the CDC suggests that the water coming out of the tap in Bangladesh is “not safe to drink.” According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than a quarter of the world's population lives in water-stressed countries, and a similar number uses a drinking water source contaminated with feces. These conditions cause diarrheal diseases including cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio to spread through drinking water each year. Common chemical contaminants include lead, mercury, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and microplastics. Read More: Momen for sustainable water management for promoting global peace, stability While the large cluster of 100-rated nations in the centre of the data visualization consists entirely of European nations, the 24 countries with the lowest rating are all in Africa. Among the 180 countries, there are only 50 that the CDC lists as having drinkable tap water. The US disease control agency discourages drinking tap water in much of Asia and Latin America and in every country in Africa. According to the CDC's safety advisory on tap water, no country in South Asia has access to drinkable tap water. Read more: How to Build Dhaka as a Water Wise City
A large number of people are affected by infertility in their lifetime, according to a new report published today (April 04, 2023) by the World Health Organization (WHO). Around 17.5% of the adult population – roughly 1 in 6 worldwide – experience infertility, showing the urgent need to increase access to affordable, high-quality fertility care for those in need. The new estimates show limited variation in the prevalence of infertility between regions. The rates are comparable for high-, middle- and low-income countries, indicating that this is a major health challenge globally. Read More: Every 2 minutes a woman dies due to pregnancy or childbirth: UN agencies Lifetime prevalence was 17.8% in high-income countries and 16.5% in low- and middle-income countries. “The report reveals an important truth – infertility does not discriminate,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General at WHO. “The sheer proportion of people affected shows the need to widen access to fertility care and ensure this issue is no longer sidelined in health research and policy, so that safe, effective, and affordable ways to attain parenthood are available for those who seek it,” he said. Infertility is a condition of the male or female reproductive system, defined by the failure to achieve a pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse. Read More: Unintended pregnancies surge amid Covid-19 It can cause significant distress and stigma, affecting people’s mental and psychosocial well-being. Despite the magnitude of the issue, solutions for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of infertility – including assisted reproductive technology such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) – remain underfunded and inaccessible to many due to high costs, social stigma and limited availability. At present, in most countries, fertility treatments are largely funded out of pocket – often resulting in devastating financial costs. People in the poorest countries spend a greater proportion of their income on fertility care compared to people in wealthier countries. High costs frequently prevent people from accessing infertility treatments or alternatively, can catapult them into poverty as a consequence of seeking care. Read More: French conservatives protest bill allowing IVF for lesbians “Millions of people face catastrophic healthcare costs after seeking treatment for infertility, making this a major equity issue and all too often, a medical poverty trap for those affected,” said Dr Pascale Allotey, Director of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research at WHO, including the United Nations’ Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (HRP). “Better policies and public financing can significantly improve access to treatment and protect poorer households from falling into poverty as a result,” he observed. While the new report shows convincing evidence of the high global prevalence of infertility, it highlights a persistent lack of data in many countries and some regions. The WHO report calls for greater availability of national data on infertility disaggregated by age and by cause to help with quantifying infertility, as well as knowing who needs fertility care and how risks can be reduced. Read More: Ensure reproductive health rights of all: UN chief
Dhaka topped the list of cities around the world with the worst air quality this morning (March 19, 2023). With an air quality index (AQI) score of 196 at 9:20 am today, Dhaka ranked first among cities with the most polluted air. The air was classified as ‘unhealthy’. South Korea’s Incheon and Myanmar’s Yangon occupied the second and third spots on the list, with AQI scores of 175 and 173. An AQI between 151 and 200 is considered ‘unhealthy’ while 201–300 is ‘‘very unhealthy’, and 301–400 is 'hazardous', posing severe health risks to residents. Read more: River pollution: Artists take to unique protest in Habiganj The AQI, an index for reporting daily air quality, informs people how clean or polluted the air of a certain city is and what associated health effects might be a concern for them. The AQI in Bangladesh is based on five pollutants: particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), NO2, CO, SO2, and ozone. Dhaka has long been grappling with air pollution issues. Its air quality usually turns unhealthy in winter and improves during the monsoon. As per World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year, mainly due to increased mortality from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and acute respiratory infections. Read More: Govt committed to doing all it can to defeat pollution: Environment Minister
Every two minutes, a woman dies during pregnancy or childbirth, according to the latest estimates released today in a report by United Nations (UN) agencies. The report, ‘Trends in maternal mortality’, reveals alarming setbacks for women’s health over recent years, as maternal deaths either increased or stagnated in nearly all regions of the world. “While pregnancy should be a time of immense hope and a positive experience for all women, it is tragically still a shockingly dangerous experience for millions around the world who lack access to high quality, respectful health care,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO). “These new statistics reveal the urgent need to ensure every woman and girl has access to critical health services before, during and after childbirth, and that they can fully exercise their reproductive rights,” he added. Read More: UNICEF lauds Bangladesh’ breakthrough to accelerate universal birth registration The report, which tracks maternal deaths nationally, regionally and globally from 2000 to 2020, shows there were an estimated 287,000 maternal deaths worldwide in 2020. This marks only a slight decrease from 309,000 in 2016 when the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) came into effect. While the report presents some significant progress in reducing maternal deaths between 2000 and 2015, gains largely stalled, or in some cases even reversed, after this point. In two of the eight UN regions – Europe and Northern America, and Latin America and the Caribbean – the maternal mortality rate increased from 2016 to 2020, by 17% and 15% respectively. Elsewhere, the rate stagnated. The report notes, however, that progress is possible. For example, two regions – Australia and New Zealand, and Central and Southern Asia – experienced significant declines (by 35% and 16% respectively) in their maternal mortality rates during the same period, as did 31 countries across the world. Read More: Majority of children with disabilities are not enrolled in any formal education: Survey “For millions of families, the miracle of childbirth is marred by the tragedy of maternal deaths,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “No mother should have to fear for her life while bringing a baby into the world, especially when the knowledge and tools to treat common complications exist. Equity in healthcare gives every mother, no matter who they are or where they are, a fair chance at a safe delivery and a healthy future with their family.” In total numbers, maternal deaths continue to be largely concentrated in the poorest parts of the world and in countries affected by conflict. In 2020, about 70% of all maternal deaths were in sub-Saharan Africa. In nine countries facing severe humanitarian crises, maternal mortality rates were more than double the world average (551 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 223 globally). Read More: More Rohingya female teachers need training for increasing literacy among their community “This report provides yet another stark reminder of the urgent need to double down on our commitment to women and adolescent health,” said Juan Pablo Uribe, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank, and Director of the Global Financing Facility. “With immediate action, more investments in primary health care and stronger, more resilient health systems, we can save lives, improve health and well-being, and advance the rights of and opportunities for women and adolescents.” Severe bleeding, high blood pressure, pregnancy-related infections, complications from unsafe abortion, and underlying conditions that can be aggravated by pregnancy (such as HIV/AIDS and malaria) are the leading causes of maternal deaths. These are all largely preventable and treatable with access to high-quality and respectful healthcare. Community-centered primary health care can meet the needs of women, children and adolescents and enable equitable access to critical services such as assisted births and pre- and postnatal care, childhood vaccinations, nutrition and family planning. However, underfunding of primary health care systems, a lack of trained health care workers, and weak supply chains for medical products are threatening progress. Read More: When classrooms are child-friendly and safe, children are motivated to learn, research shows Roughly a third of women do not have even four of the recommended eight antenatal checks or receive essential postnatal care, while some 270 million women lack access to modern family planning methods. Exercising control over their reproductive health – particularly decisions about if and when to have children – is critical to ensure that women can plan and space childbearing and protect their health. Inequities related to income, education, race or ethnicity further increase risks for marginalized pregnant women, who have the least access to essential maternity care but are most likely to experience underlying health problems in pregnancy. "It is unacceptable that so many women continue to die needlessly in pregnancy and childbirth. Over 280,000 fatalities in a single year is unconscionable,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem. “We can and must do better by urgently investing in family planning and filling the global shortage of 900,000 midwives so that every woman can get the lifesaving care she needs. We have the tools, knowledge and resources to end preventable maternal deaths; what we need now is the political will." Read More: Bangladesh ranks top among the countries to receive free Covid vaccine from WHO: Health minister The COVID-19 pandemic may have further held back progress on maternal health. Noting the current data series ends in 2020, more data will be needed to show the true impacts of the pandemic on maternal deaths. However, COVID-19 infections can increase risks during pregnancy, so countries should take action to ensure pregnant women and those planning pregnancies have access to COVID-19 vaccines and effective antenatal care. “Reducing maternal mortality remains one of the most pressing global health challenges,” said John Wilmoth, Director of the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. “Ending preventable maternal deaths and providing universal access to quality maternal health care require sustained national and international efforts and unwavering commitments, particularly for the most vulnerable populations. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that every mother, everywhere, survives childbirth, so that she and her children can thrive." The report reveals that the world must significantly accelerate progress to meet global targets for reducing maternal deaths, or risk the lives of over 1 million more women by 2030. Read More: There are more than 2.3 million cases of breast cancer that occur each year: WHO