Significant strides have been made in increasing life expectancy and reducing some of the common killers associated with child and maternal mortality. Between 2000 and 2016, the worldwide under-five mortality rate decreased by 47 percent (from 78 deaths per 1,000 live births to 41 deaths per 1,000 live births). Still, the number of children dying under age five is extremely high: 5.6 million in 2016 alone. Newborns account for a growing number of these deaths, and poorer children are at the greatest risk of under-5 mortality due to a number of factors. SDG Goal 3 aims to reduce under-five mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births. But if current trends continue, more than 60 countries will miss the SDG neonatal mortality target for 2030. About half of these countries would not reach the target even by 2050.
Goal 3 also aims to reduce maternal mortality to less than 70 deaths per 100,000 live births. Though the maternal mortality ratio declined by 37 percent between 2000 and 2015, there were approximately 303,000 maternal deaths worldwide in 2015, most from preventable causes. In 2015, maternal health conditions were also the leading cause of death among girls aged 15–19. Data for girls of greatest concern – those aged between 10-14 – is currently unavailable. Key strategies for meeting SDG Goal 3 will be to reduce adolescent pregnancy (which is strongly linked to gender equality), provide better data for all women and girls, and achieve universal coverage of skilled birth attendants.
Similarly, progress has been made on increasing access to clean water and sanitation and on reducing malaria, tuberculosis, polio, and the spread of HIV/AIDS. From 2000–2016, new HIV infections declined by 66 percent for children under 15 and by 45 percent among adolescents aged 15–19. However, current trends mean that 1 out of 4 countries still won’t meet the SDG target to end AIDS among children under 5, and 3 out of 4 will not meet the target to end AIDS among adolescents. Additionally, only half of women in developing countries have received the health care they need, and the need for family planning is increasing exponentially as the population grows. While needs are being addressed gradually, more than 225 million women have an unmet need for contraception.
Goal 3 aims to achieve universal health coverage, including access to essential medicines and vaccines. It proposes to end the preventable death of newborns and children under 5 and to end epidemics such as AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and water-borne diseases, for example. 2016 rates for the third dose of the pertussis vaccine (DTP3) and the first dose of the measles vaccine (MCV1) reached 86 percent and 85 percent, respectively. Yet about 20 million children did not receive DTP3 and about 21 million did not receive MCV1. Around 2 in 5 countries will need to accelerate progress in order to reach SDG targets for immunization.
Attention to health and well-being also includes targets related to the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, deaths and injuries from traffic accidents and from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination.