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

17 April 2014

‘Task Shifting’ brings Emergency Maternity Care to Burkina Faso Women

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso – Aminata Kouanda, 20, arrived at the Koupela health post, in eastern Burkina Faso, suffering complications late in her pregnancy. She faced the risk of uterine rupture and required an emergency Caesarean section, a procedure that had long been unavailable outside major urban hospitals. But thanks to 'task shifting', the movement of emergency procedures from specialists to basic health facilities, Ms. Kouanda was able to access the surgery, saving her life and that of her baby. more
16 April 2014

Midwives Heed Call to Save Mothers

JUBA, South Sudan – Armed with a broad smile, Jennifer Ikokole ushers expectant mothers into a makeshift tent at the sprawling Tomping civilian protection camp in South Sudan’s capital, Juba. As the current crisis takes its toll on the population, the tent serves both as a maternity ward and a maternal and child health clinic. more
08 April 2014

Midwives are Key to Fewer Maternal Deaths

UNITED NATIONS, New York – At a side event of the 47th session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development, leaders and experts highlighted the key role of midwifery in drastically decreasing maternal deaths and providing crucial services for societies as a whole. more
28 March 2014

Giving Birth amid Chaos in South Sudan

JUBA, South Sudan – Mary Akuol, 23, cradles her two-week old baby at the entrance of her family’s makeshift tent in Juba III, a civilian protection camp in South Sudan’s capital. With support from UNFPA, Mary was able to deliver safely and continues to learn about family planning, reproductive health, breastfeeding and general child care at maternal clinics in the camp. more
20 March 2014

Syria's Refugees Meet Mama Munira

ZA'ATARI REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan — Over the past three years, Syria's civil war has left more than 130,000 dead and forced millions to flee to neighbouring countries like Jordan. In the midst of this catastrophe, one extraordinary woman remains focused on her work: changing lives for the better. more