For the first time in history, the World Health Organization has compiled a list of the top 30 medicines that can be used to save mothers and children. The WHO pinpoints the diseases that health experts see as the most globally burdensome for women and children, and lists the medicines that pharmacies and hospitals should stock.
"In essence, these are the 30 medicines that should be available in every health facility where sick mothers and children seek care," said WHO spokeswoman Olivia Lawe-Davies.
According to the WHO, every day more than 1,000 women die from complications stemming from pregnancy and childbirth. And more than half of them suffer from severe post-partum bleeding that could be stopped with a simple injection of oxytocin.
Every year, more than 8 million children under the age of 5, most in developing countries, die from things like pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria -- causes that are entirely treatable when the correct medicines are available.
The idea behind the list, Lawe-Davies explained, is to help poor countries prioritize which drugs can make the biggest impact. Experts conducted surveys in places like Africa and found that in 14 countries, essential children's medications were available in less than half of the pharmacies and drug stores.
"We intend [for the list] to help countries make the best use of limited resources, by buying drugs that will save the most lives," said Lawe-Davies. "We're also aiming to encourage manufacturers to produce the medicines that are the most urgently needed in the right dosages and formulations."