On 24th May 2019, the World Health Assembly established 17th September as a World Patient Safety Day by means of the adoption of resolution WHA72.6 – “Global action on patient safety”. The overall objectives of the Day are to enhance global understanding of patient safety, increase public engagement in health care safety, and promote global action to prevent and reduce avoidable harm in health care. A new theme is selected every year to shed light on a priority area critical to patient safety and ultimately the achievement of universal health coverage.

One of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide is patient harm resulting from adverse events occurring while in hospital. This is very significant in obstetric practice where conditions such as wrong drug administered to wrong patient, anaphylactic reactions to certain drugs, post-partum haemorrhage due to certain conditions and delayed decision-making are major contributing factors to patient harm.

Approximately 810 women and 7000 new-borns die daily, with the causes occurring mainly around the time of childbirth. About 2 million babies were also stillborn every year, with over 40% occurring during labour. This has been further compounded multiple times by the COVID-19 pandemic which has led to a disruption of the most essential health services that has resulted in breaks in supply chains, lack of access to healthcare, and the shortage of skilled health professionals. Most of these deaths and stillbirths are avoidable through the provision of safe and quality care by skilled health care professionals working in supportive environments.

In response to this, the selected theme for World Patient Safety Day 2021 is “Safe maternal and new-born care”. Since maternity care is also affected by issues of gender equity and violence, women’s experiences during childbirth have the potential to either empower or to inflict damage and emotional trauma on them.

The objectives of World Patient Safety Day 2021 are to:

  • Raise global awareness on the issues of maternal and new-born safety, particularly during childbirth.
  • Engage multiple stakeholders and adopt effective and innovative strategies to improve maternal and new-born safety.
  • Call for urgent and sustainable actions by all stakeholders to scale up efforts, reach the unreached and ensure safe maternal and new-born care, particularly during childbirth.
  • Advocate the adoption of best practices at the point of care to prevent avoidable risks and harm to all women and new-borns during childbirth.

COVID-19 makes achieving optimal patient flow more important than ever. Therefore, this year’s campaign slogan— “Act now for safe and respectful childbirth!”—calls on all stakeholders; governments, nongovernmental organizations, professional organizations, civil society, patient organizations, academia and research institutes; to accelerate the actions necessary for ensuring safe and respectful childbirth and ultimately achieve the maternal and new-born SDG 3 targets.