From minding the gap to closing the gap: Science to transform maternal and newborn survival and stillbirths in sub-Saharan Africa in the Sustainable Development Goals era

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With only just over a decade to meet the SDGs, there is an ongoing burden of 5.4 million deaths globally, including newborns (2.5 million), stillbirths (2.6 million), and maternal (0.3 million). Africa, with only 13% of the world’s population, carries more than half of this burden with 2.3 million deaths per year. Based on current trends, most sub-Saharan African countries won’t meet the SDG target of 12 or fewer newborn deaths per 1,000 births and are also at risk of missing targets for maternal mortality reduction.

A report published in 2009 by the African Science Academy Development Initiative (a collective of 7 African academies of science) entitled Science in action: Saving the lives of Africa’s mothers, newborns, and children reviewed the status of maternal, newborn and child health in Africa and highlighted evidence-based ways to save lives. Nearly 10 years later, the African Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Medical Sciences organised a workshop in 2018 with experts from the region on the rate of progress in the SDG era, how to improve implementation of proven interventions, novel solutions, and ways to support investment in science and research leadership in Africa.

The workshop brought together approximately 65 scientists, clinicians, policymakers and funders from 15 countries across sub-Saharan Africa. This report summarizes the discussions and outlines a number of next steps, including efforts to bring together researchers already working on this topic to create better networks, identifying ways to bridge the gap between research and policymakers, and a desire for a second meeting to prioritise the most pressing needs for future research.

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