Maternal and Newborn Health Thematic Fund

UNFPA launched the Maternal Health Thematic Fund (MHTF) in 2008 to jump-start safe motherhood programmes in some of the world's least developed countries. UNFPA estimates that MHTF has contributed to averting an estimated 119,127 maternal deaths through strategic interventions in 39 countries with some of the highest maternal mortality and morbidity rates in the world.

Accelerating progress for mothers

The thematic fund aims to spur progress on Sustainable Development Goal 3, which calls for efforts to promote healthy lives and well-being. The fund is supported by donors committed to making childbirth safer for all women and girls by bolstering midwifery and strengthening health systems overall, especially in their ability to deliver life-saving emergency obstetric and newborn care (EmONC) to those who face the greatest risks in giving birth.

These efforts encompasse the Midwifery Programme, the Campaign to End Fistula, EmONC development, and maternal and newborn death surveillance and response efforts – all key parts of the maternal health programme.

Getting results

The Maternal Health Thematic Fund provides promotes evidence-based interventions, policies and technical guidance to improve maternal health in 39 countries with high maternal mortality rates.

One key focus has been training thousands of midwives each year who, in turn, can care for millions of women annually. In 2017 alone, 15,358 midwives were trained and over 300 midwifery schools and training institutions were strengthened with equipment and training materials, for example. From 2014-2017, over 57,000 obstetric fistula repair surgeries were supported. 

And as part of its strategy to reach the most vulnerable, the Maternal Health Thematic Fund is reaching out to make sure that first-time and adolescent mothers get the quality care they need.


Building on evidence, monitoring progress

The Maternal Health Thematic Fund is also helping build a solid base of evidence to fuel further improvements in women's health. Since 2008, the Fund has supported 36 countries in completing national emergency obstetric and newborn care needs assessments.

Only six countries have the capacity to monitor the availability and quality of EmONC services. The Fund is helping countries institute systematic reporting and monitoring, so that every maternal death is counted and contributes to a better understanding of how and where health systems are failing.

In its the second phase of operation (2014-2017), the Maternal Health Thematic Fund introduced a consolidated and detailed results framework. It charts progress by country across dozens of indicators—from access to skilled birth attendance and emergency care to government expenditures for maternal and newborn health.

Partners and donors

Partnerships with national governments and donors, and with other UN agencies, deserve special mention.

In particular, UNFPA thanks the governments of Germany, Luxembourg and Sweden. We also thank the key supporters of maternal health, including the governments of France, Norway and the United Kingdom.

Private sector and civil society partners also deserve special recognition: We thank Friends of UNFPA, Johnson & Johnson, the Laerdal Foundation and the UNFCU Foundation for their generous support.

Our sincere thanks go to our UN colleagues around the globe at the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Women, the World Bank Group and the World Health Organization (WHO), which in collaborating with UNFPA, are making a stronger partnership with H6.

Significant contributions come from our programme partners, which include the International Confederation of Midwives, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, the Maternal and Child Survival Program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), AMREF Health Africa, the International Society of Obstetric Fistula Surgeons, Columbia University’s Averting Maternal Death and Disability Program, Johns Hopkins University, Jhpiego, the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the University of Aberdeen, the Wilson Centre, Women Deliver, the University of Geneva, and national and regional partners listed in Annex 1 for the Campaign to End Fistula.

Updated 29 August 2018.

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