Every day, nearly 5400 stillbirths occur; 810 women lose their lives; 6700 newborns lose their lives. Most of these lives can be saved through the provision of safe care.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic very clearly revealed the need for patient safety. The new treatment methodologies and administration of vaccines need a health protocol that has patient’s safety at its core. Additionally, when health workers face risks associated with infections, violence, stigma, psychological and emotional suffering, physical illness, and even death, it makes them more prone to errors which can lead to patient harm. Therefore, it is essential to observe the day of world patient safety to remind ourselves of the many lives that can be saved by following very simple health and safety protocols. 

World Patient Safety Day is marked every year on 17 September. It was established by the 72nd World Health Assembly in May 2019, following the adoption of resolution WHA72.6 on “Global action on patient safety.” This resolution recognizes patient safety as a global health priority and promotes the important objective of this day, which includes increasing public awareness and engagement, enhancing global understanding, and spurring global solidarity and action to progress patient safety. 

The theme of 2021: Safe maternal and newborn care

This year’s theme is to mark the countless lives lost during the pandemic due to the unavailability of safe maternal care. The developing countries were just preparing themselves to reach their SDG targets of maternal and infant mortality rates, but the pandemic put all the progress in reverse gear. According to WHO’s data, nearly 810 women and 6700 newborns lose their lives every day. This puts the entire world behind in terms of achieving SDG 3 (good health and well-being) and SDG 5 (gender equality). Therefore, the slogan ‘Act now for safe and respectful childbirth!’ has been adopted to recognize the need for immediate action. 

It has to be understood that unsafe childbirth has a spillover effect on other SDGs like SDG 10 (reduced inequalities) and SDG 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions). Therefore, it is important that on this day, we pledge to recover the gains on maternal and newborn care that we lost during the pandemic and rebuild a system that is resilient in the face of a challenging situation. 

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Shristi Banerjee

Lawyer, Jharkhand High Court (India)

Global Representative (India), Roya Institute of Global Justice