High Level Meeting on Maternal Health - MDG 5

26 October 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


Building on the commitments in the Programme of Action of the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), the 1999 Key Actions for the ICPD and the Millennium Declaration, the international community is striving to achieve Millennium Development Goal 5 with its two targets:

  1. reduce the maternal death ratio by three quarters between 1990-2015, and
  2. achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015. The maternal health goal has made the least progress among all of the MDGs. Complications of pregnancy and childbirth remain the leading killer of women in the developing world; and access to reproductive health information and services remains an illusion for many, especially women and young people.

It is in this context that the Kingdom of the Netherlands and UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund organized a one-day High-Level Meeting on Maternal Health-Millennium Development Goal 5, on 26 October 2009. The purpose of the meeting was to give maternal and reproductive health a more prominent place on the development agenda, and to increase the political and financial commitment to improve programme implementation at country level.

Every minute a woman dies due to pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes, which adds up to more than half a million women a year or more than 10 million women over a generation. And for every woman who dies, there are at least 20 others who are left with chronic health problems following pregnancy or childbirth, due to the lack of professional care. Moreover, access to sexual and reproductive health information and services is often of poor or not existing and quality is low, especially not catering for the needs of women and young people. Worldwide 1 in 10 women –estimated at least 200 million women – have an unmet need for family planning and contraceptives.

Urgent action is needed. In some countries progress is limited; in others progress has been made. What can we learn from their experiences? The High Level Meeting provided the opportunity to learn from each other. We know what it takes to reverse this situation: all that is needed is the political will and financial investment to do what is so urgently required to end maternal deaths and improve sexual and reproductive health. It is estimated that, by 2015, between $5.5 billion and $6.1 billion in additional funding will be needed from domestic and international sources to accomplish MDG 5 to improve maternal health. In 2004, the world’s major donors invested only $530 million in maternal and newborn health. The need for voluntary family planning is growing fast, and it is estimated that the ‘unmet need’ will grow by 40% during the next 15 years. The estimated costs of contraception in 2008 in developing countries are 1.7 billion US$.


Minister for Development Cooperation, The Netherlands, Mr. Bert Koenders, and the Executive Director, UNFPA, Ms. Thoraya Ahmed Obaid.


Approximately 150 ministers, parliamentarians, representatives of regional inter-governmental organizations, youth groups, private sector and civil society leaders from around the world will be attending this meeting, which is by invitation only.


The meeting resulted in a Call to Action that makes recommendations for specific programmes and for actions to reach the maternal health goal by 2015. The results of the meeting were presented by Minister Koenders at the Fourth International Parliamentarians’ Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (IPCI/ICPD IV), which took place from 27 to 28 October at the same venue, the United Nations Conference Centre in Addis Ababa.

Draft Agenda

10:00-10:20  PHOTO SESSION
10:20-10:50  COFFEE BREAK
10:50-13.00 SESSION 1:
Country Experiences: Lessons Learned and a Vision on the Future
  1. Introduction
  2. Country Experiences
  3. Youth Experience and Intervention
  4.  Closing of the Morning Programme
13:00-14:30 LUNCH
14:30-16:00 SESSION 2:
Challenges in Addressing Policy Change to Achieve Implementation of MDG5 at the Country Level
16:00-16:30 COFFEE BREAK
16:30-18.00 SESSION 3:
Mobilizing Political and Financial Commitments for MDG 5
18:30-20:00 RECEPTION