Resources on Maternal health

Some 15 per cent of pregnant women worldwide face potential life-threatening complications during pregnancy, delivery or afterwards.

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Obstetric fistula is a preventable and in most cases, treatable childbirth injury that leaves women incontinent, ashamed and often isolated from their communities.

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A woman’s chance of dying or becoming disabled during pregnancy and childbirth is closely connected to her social and economic status, the norms and values of her culture, and the geographic remoteness of her home.

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Almost all of these women—99 per cent—live and die in developing countries. Since 1990, the global maternal mortality ratio has decreased by 42 per cent, from over 543,000 in 1990 to 287,000 in 2010.

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According to the World Health Organization, there are 500 million new sexually transmitted infection cases each year, of which 93 million are in Africa. Investments in women’s health during their childbearing years not only save women’s lives, but also produce ripple effects that benefit families, communities and nations.

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The health benefits of contraceptive use are substantial. Contraceptives prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the number of abortions, and lower the incidence of death and disability related to complications of pregnancy and childbirth.

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This Fact Sheet was prepared in January 2013 for the Summit of CARMMA (Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal, New Born and Child Mortality in Africa) in Addis Ababa.

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From 29 June to 1 July 2004, UNFPA hosted the second Africa Regional Meeting on Obstetric Fistula, in Accra, Ghana. The conference brought together over 90 participants from 26 countries, including UNFPA staff, government officials, non-governmental organizations, and some of the world's foremost experts in obstetric fistula.

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This report reviews the first meeting of international fistula experts in London in July 2001, which launched this initiative and focused on concrete actions to alleviate the suffering of affected women.

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The report documents a March 2006 workshop to discuss the role of midwives in achieving MDG 5 (improving maternal health). The workshop, the first of its kind for UNFPA, brought together midwives from developing and industrialized countries with midwifery advisors and UNFPA staff and partners to discuss barriers to the development of a robust midwifery workforce. Although many of the barriers are well known, participants called attention to the underlying issue of gender inequality.

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