Press Release

Government and Partners Call for Strengthened Partnership and Intensified Efforts Against Maternal and Neonatal Mortality Crisis

09 May 2024

Participants to the Maternal and Newborn Health Summit highlight the need to galvanize action to strengthen maternal and newborn health interventions, thereby contributing to the reduction of maternal, newborn and still births in Zambia. 

LUSAKA, Zambia, 09 May 2024 – The Acting President of the Government of the Republic of Zambia, Her Honour Mrs. W.K Mutale Nalumango, called for renewed policy and financial commitments to save the lives of babies and mothers at the Maternal and Newborn Health Summit organised today in Lusaka by the Ministry of Health with support from key line ministries and cooperating partners. 

Under the theme “Accelerating the Reduction of Maternal and Neonatal Deaths in Zambia through Multi-Sectoral approach” the event presented an opportunity for the Government of the Republic of Zambia and partners to assess progress made in addressing maternal and newborn deaths. 

Maternal mortality ratio has shown modest reduction every decade since year 2000. The facility maternal mortality ratio (MPDSR) has gone from 137 per 100,000 live births in 2020, to 123 in 2021 and to 118 in 2022. This progress highlights the efforts of the Government and partners in addressing the issue. Nevertheless, maternal mortality ratio remains unacceptably high, especially in some areas across the country. 

Moreover, neonatal mortality rates have remained stagnant between 2020 and 2022, with a persistent rate of 24 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to UN Inter-agency Group data. Despite improvements in maternal and newborn health, there is still much work to be done to reduce the deaths as challenges persist in meeting the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, Good Health and Wellbeing: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for at all ages, to be attained by 2030.

“The Maternal and Newborn Health Summit is a critical initiative in our ongoing efforts to reduce maternal, neonatal, and perinatal deaths in Zambia. Bringing together stakeholders from various sectors will be helpful in developing actionable strategies to overcome challenges faced in accessing quality maternal and newborn health care,” stated Her Honour, Mrs. W.K Mutale Nalumango. 

In Zambia, a mother dies every 12 hours, a newborn dies every 30 minutes, and a stillbirth occurs every hour. In 2023 alone, 782 mothers and 16,000 newborns died, and 5,000 stillbirths were registered. Against this backdrop, the Maternal and Newborn Summit has drawn engagement and participation from all cooperating and implementing partners to review key indicators, provide recommendations for action, and map the way forward on partners’ support and collaboration.

"Ending preventable child and maternal deaths will require a coordinated effort between government, civil society, and the private sector to mitigate the three delays - delays in seeking care, delays in reaching care, and delays in receiving care. The United States will continue to work with you to find creative, affordable ways to connect more pregnant people to care during the most critical moments,” said U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires, Linnisa Wahid. 

The Maternal and Newborn Health summit participants discussed challenges contributing to maternal and neonatal deaths, particularly the three delays, namely, delay in seeking care, reaching care, and receiving care. Through collaborative efforts, stakeholders held sessions to discuss and develop strategies to overcome the identified barriers to care, improve access to quality maternal and newborn health care and refine resource mobilization efforts.

The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Beatrice Mutali, highlighted the need of concerted efforts to address maternal and newborn deaths. “The United Nations stands in solidarity with Zambia in its pursuit of improving maternal and newborn health outcomes. We believe that today’s deliberations will catalyse the momentum towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3, ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages. We are committed to supporting the Government of the Republic of Zambia in improving access to healthcare services, particularly among the poor, and underprivileged populations and in underserved areas. We will continue to work with the Government, cooperating partners, civil society, the private sector, and communities themselves h to strengthen healthcare systems, improve the quality of care, and strengthen initiatives to promote healthy behaviours and improve care-seeking for health”.

Organized by the Ministry of Health in partnership with cooperating partners, the summit marks a significant step towards operationalizing the Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Nutrition (RMNCAH&N) roadmap and investment case. 

The summit brought together the experts in the maternal and newborn health with policy makers to brainstorm on key issues and come forward with recommendations to improve health system for delivery of MNH interventions.

The World Bank Country Manager, Dr Achim Fock, who spoke on behalf of the Cooperating Partners, emphasized the importance of a multisectoral approach to addressing the challenges in RMNCAH&N.  “Zambia has a unique opportunity with roll out of decentralisation in the health sector whereby the needed multisectoral and multi-disciplinary actions can be most effective at community and local level. Local councils with the health leadership are already utilizing the Constituency Development Funds to build closer maternity clinics and investing in systems for transport for expectant mothers. Scaling this up and using the models that are already effective in some districts can be a game changer,” he said.

Some of the recommendations from the summit are to improve the healthcare system in Zambia by enhancing data-driven decision-making and implementing an effective Civil Registration and Vital Statistics System. Additionally, commitments are made to improve health related supply chain and logistics management, integrate quality improvement of RMNCAH&N services, and ensure community responsiveness of these services. Furthermore, to improve sustainability and access to healthcare by enhancing collaboration, linkages, and integration of service provision have been identified as key action. Finally, recommendations have been made to address the human resources gap and raise capacities to ensure a more effective and efficient healthcare system. By implementing these recommendations, Zambia will make significant strides in improving the health and well-being of its mothers and newborns.



Note to editors:

For photos of the summit and b-roll, click here:  

About RMNCH Roadmap: 

This road map is a framework has been developed in response to the need for accelerated actions for Zambia to help meet the targets of the National Health Strategic Plan 2022 - 2026, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals. It builds on the Zambia Roadmap for Accelerating Reduction of Maternal, Newborn, and Child Mortality in Zambia 2013-2016 



On behalf of the American people, the U.S. Agency for International Development promotes and demonstrates democratic values abroad, and advances a free, peaceful, and prosperous world. In support of America's foreign policy, USAID leads the U.S. Government's international development and disaster assistance through partnerships and investments that save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance, and help people emerge from humanitarian crises and progress beyond assistance. Learn more at

About the United Nations in Zambia

The support of the UN System in Zambia is coordinated under Zambia- United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF) 2023–2027, developed in close partnership with the Government of the Republic of Zambia and in consultation with development partners, enables a coherent UN response supporting Zambia to achieve the 2030 Agenda, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the country’s National Vision 2030. Learn more at The United Nations in Zambia | United Nations in Zambia


For further inquiries, please contact:

Dr Kalangwa Kalangwa, Spokesperson, Ministry of Health Zambia. Email: 

Mainza Kawanu, Communication Officer. Email: ; Telephone: +260969100157. 

Mainza Kawanu

Mainza Kawanu

Communication Officer (Partnerships and Visibility), UNICEF Zambia

UN entities involved in this initiative

United Nations Resident Coordinator Office
United Nations Children’s Fund

Goals we are supporting through this initiative