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Worldwide, 250,000–280,000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth every year and an estimated 6.55 million children die under the age of five. The majority of maternal deaths occur during or immediately after childbirth, while 43% of child death occurs during the first 28 days of life. However, the progress in limiting these has been slow and sporadic. In this supplement of five papers, the authors aim to systematically assess and summarize essential interventions for reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health from relevant systematic reviews.