Muslim-majority countries have higher maternal, stillbirth, newborn and child mortality rates compared to the global average and compared to non-Muslim-majority countries, highlighting the impact of conflict and political instability on health outcomes for women and children, according to new research published in The Lancet.
There is no indication that religion affects health outcomes, and the findings of the study point to issues such as conflict, migration, political instability and government effectiveness, as key drivers of differences in maternal and child mortality.
Evidence from around the world also shows that higher literacy and empowerment of women positively impact on maternal and child health. While several Muslim-majority countries have made progress on indicators of empowerment and access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, the authors say greater efforts are now needed.
Every year, worldwide, an estimated 303,000 mothers and 5.9 million children younger than 5 years die from largely preventable causes. More than 95% of these deaths occur in 75 countries of the world, predominantly in south Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
Writing in a linked Comment, Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations, says: “Greater investments in reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health are (also) some of our greatest tools in the face of rising levels of conflict and humanitarian crisis, which disproportionately affect Muslim-majority countries. We must prioritise the potential of women and adolescents as agents of peace through greater investments across health, education, and economic sectors."