Safe Motherhood

Stepping up Efforts to Save Mothers' Lives

Every day, almost 800 women die in pregnancy or childbirth. Every two minutes, the loss of a mother shatters a family and threatens the well-being of surviving children. Evidence shows that infants whose mothers die are more likely to die before reaching their second birthday than infants whose mothers survive. And for every woman who dies, 20 or more experience serious complications.

Of the hundreds of thousands of women who die during pregnancy or childbirth each year, 90 per cent live in Africa and Asia. The majority of women are dying from severe bleeding, infections, eclampsia, obstructed labour and the consequences of unsafe abortions--all  causes for which we have highly effective interventions.

Working for the survival of mothers is a human rights imperative. It also has enormous socio-economic ramifications – and is a crucial international development priority. Both the International Conference on Population and Development and Millennium Development Goals call for a 75 per cent reduction in maternal mortality between 1990 and 2015.  This three-pronged strategy is key to the accomplishment of the goal:

  • All women have access to contraception to avoid unintended pregnancies
  • All pregnant women have access to skilled care at the time of birth
  • All those with complications have timely access to quality emergency obstetric care

In 2008, UNFPA established the  Maternal Health Thematic Fund to increase the capacity of national health systems to provide a broad range of quality maternal health services, reduce health inequities, and empower women to exercise their right to maternal health. The Campaign to End Fistula and the UNFPA-ICM Midwifery Programme are now integrated into this umbrella fund.

UNFPA has also teamed up with five partners, UNICEF, the World Bank, World Health Organization, UNAIDS and UNWomen, to accelerate progress in saving the lives of women and newborns. Collectively known as the 'The Health 4+' or 'H4+',  the six agencies have pledged to support countries with the highest maternal mortality rates.

The H4+ joined the Every Woman Every Child effort in 2010 to support to the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health. The agencies have helped countries to make commitments to this global initiative, and with the UN’s MDG Advocates and partners, are supporting a group of countries—that together accounts for almost 60 per cent of global maternal deaths—to mobilize the financial, technical and human resources needed to meet their commitments.

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Latest News

15 August 2014

Quadruplets born in rural DRC, with help of emergency obstetric programme

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo - “In one day, my world changed,” said Bokoli Bepete, 36, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It was something of an understatement: Ms. Bepete had just given birth to quadruplets. The extraordinary event was cause for celebration throughout the community. And for Ms. Bepete, it was a happy end to a difficult period. more
13 August 2014

Syrian crisis takes heaviest toll on region’s women and girls

UNITED NATIONS, New York – The Syrian crisis continues to send shockwaves through the region, taking the heaviest toll on women and girls. Some 10.8 million people are affected by the emergency in Syria, including 432,000 pregnant women. Meanwhile, in surrounding countries – Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey – there are around 3 million Syrian refugees , an estimated 76,000 of whom are pregnant women, according to July data from UNFPA, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency of Turkey. more
08 August 2014

UNFPA deploys support for women, girls amid mass flight from Iraq’s Sinjar

UNITED NATIONS, New York – As the security situation in northern Iraq deteriorates, the humanitarian needs of women and youth are multiplying. UNFPA estimates 380,000 pregnant women are currently displaced or at risk. more
07 August 2014

Tens of thousands in need of maternal health services in Gaza

UNITED NATIONS, New York – The evacuation warning came at 11 on the morning of Wednesday, 23 July, as the bombardment outside intensified. Huddled in their home in the El Shijaia neighbourhood of Gaza, Iman Fora and her family received word that a bus was arriving to transport residents to a shelter. But the announcement brought little relief to their family; Ms. Fora, 21, was already in active labour. more
01 August 2014

Making family planning a priority in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

ASHGABAT/DUSHANBE – Aygul, 23, nearly lost her life when she developed complications during labour due to a heart condition. Fortunately, she was rushed from her home in rural Turkmenistan to the capital Ashgabat, where, under the care of a cardiologist, she successfully gave birth to a baby girl. Now, modern contraceptives are helping to keep her healthy while she recovers and receives treatment for her condition. more