UNITED NATIONS, New York – As the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) draws near, advocates are intensifying efforts to improve maternal and newborn survival. At a meeting of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Millennium Development Goal Advocates, in Kigali, Rwanda, supporters of the health-related MDGs presented the Roadmap to Accelerate Achievement of Maternal and Newborn Survival, which focuses on the 48 hours surrounding childbirth, a time when the lives of mothers and children are at greatest risk.
If followed, the steps in the Roadmap could help save the lives of an additional 140,000 women and 250,000 newborns by the end of next year.
There are only about 540 days left to achieve the MDGs by the 2015 deadline.
Getting on track
The world is reducing pregnancy and childbirth-related deaths of women faster than at any other time in history, largely thanks to better training for health workers and midwives, integrated health interventions, greater funding, and increased political commitment.
Globally, maternal deaths have fallen by almost half since 1990 – from an estimated 523,000 maternal deaths a year to 289,000 in 2013, according to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNFPA, the World Bank and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Yet many countries are not on track to meet MDG 5 – which calls for reducing maternal deaths by two thirds and providing universal access to reproductive health care. In addition to protecting the health and human rights of women, achieving this goal will improve child survival, as mothers’ well-being is known to improve children’s health.
“A coalition of United Nations agencies supporting maternal and child health have developed the new Acceleration Roadmap for MDG 5, on maternal health, to enhance support for countries’ work to improve the health of women and girls in the race to meet the MDG deadline of 2015 and beyond,” said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA’s Executive Director.
Dr. Osotimehin chairs the UN agencies’ coalition on health, called the H4+. It includes UNFPA, WHO, UNICEF, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), UN Women and the World Bank.
Gearing up to save lives
The Roadmap calls for the provision of effective, life-saving interventions during and immediately after birth. It also calls for enhancing antenatal health services, increasing access to modern contraceptives, and prioritizing countries and regions where maternal and newborn deaths are the highest, such as areas in the grip of humanitarian crises.
Spearheaded by a private-public partnership, this Roadmap comes on the heels of the launch of the Achievement Roadmap for MDG 4, on reducing child death, at the World Economic Forum in January. That document outlined how the lives of 2.2 million children could be saved by the end of 2015.
“With only 20 months left to achieve the MDGs, we must do everything possible to accelerate our progress,” said Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. “We must reach the most marginalized, disadvantaged and underserved populations and increase their access to essential information, services and commodities. I congratulate UNFPA and the many partners who have worked together to create a roadmap that will save hundreds of thousands of lives.”