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

25 July 2014

UNFPA Alarmed Over Devastating Impact of Gaza Violence on Women, Girls

UNITED NATIONS, New York—UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is deeply concerned about the impact of the ongoing Gaza conflict on women’s health and their access to safe births. more
24 July 2014

Health needs escalate as crisis in Gaza continues

UNITED NATIONS, New York – On Monday, 21 July, the home and maternal health clinic of Feeza Shraim, a UNFPA-supported midwife in the Gaza Strip, were destroyed in an airstrike. Ms. Shraim – who has worked with UNFPA as a midwife, trainer and advocate since 2004 – had been operating the clinic out of her home. Since the start of the crisis, she had assisted about 30 pregnant women. more
15 July 2014

Fistula survivors treated through M-Pesa mobile banking scheme in Tanzania

NEW YORK, United States – Mama Hadija, now in her 60s, had grown accustomed to living in shame. Over 25 years ago, she suffered a prolonged, obstructed labour. The ordeal caused her to develop an obstetric fistula, a form of internal damage that results in incontinence, stigma and isolation. more
08 July 2014

Roadmap promises to save lives of 140,000 women and 250,000 newborns

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. more
07 July 2014

In South Sudan camp, midwifery training offers a crucial a lifeline

JUBA, South Sudan – It is the middle of the night in a crowded displacement camp in Juba, South Sudan, and 25-year-old Marsa Nyaluak is losing blood fast. She is in labour and has been bleeding for two hours. She needs help. As her anxious husband looks on, a community midwife is working furiously to keep Ms. Nyaluak and the baby alive. more