Press Release

Making Motherhood Safer: Report Details UN Population Fund's Efforts to Reduce Maternal Mortality

15 February 2001
Author: UNFPA

United Nations, New York - A new report enumerates the actions the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is taking to make motherhood safer in developing countries.

Complications of pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death and disability for women aged 15 to 49 in most developing countries. Worldwide, some 500,000 women die each year from causes related to pregnancy, childbirth and unsafe abortion, such as haemorrhage, toxaemia, obstructed labour or sepsis. Many times that number suffer from infections or long-term injuries.

More than 99 per cent of these deaths and injuries occur in developing countries, and the vast majority could be prevented if women had access to basic and emergency medical care during pregnancy, childbirth, and the post-partum period. Yet only 53 per cent of pregnant women in developing countries deliver with the help of a skilled attendant, and millions of women have no means of getting to a hospital in case of major obstetric complications.

The new publication, a Maternal Mortality Update 1998-1999, reviews the current situation and analyses lessons learned from successful programmes in developing countries. The report describes UNFPA-supported activities to prevent maternal deaths, including family planning information and services; prenatal, delivery and post-natal care at the primary level and referrals to higher care levels for the management of obstetric complications; and prevention of abortion, management of the consequences of abortion, and post-abortion counselling.

In 1998 and 1999, the Fund spent an estimated $105 million for such activities in 89 developing countries and another $3.4 million for regional and global efforts, accounting for 30 per cent of UNFPA programme expenditures worldwide.

UNFPA country offices are striving to reduce maternal death by:

  • Upgrading primary health-care facilities to make essential and emergency obstetric care more available, especially in rural and under-served areas;
  • Providing equipment and supplies for prenatal, delivery, and post-natal care of mothers and newborns;
  • Training health service providers in various aspects of maternal care, including life-saving skills for emergency cases;
  • Providing vehicles to transport women with obstetric complications;
  • Mobilizing communities to fully use available services.

Non-governmental organizations are involved in designing, planning, and implementing UNFPA-supported maternal health programmes in 44 countries.

Maternal Mortality Update 1998-1999 can be viewed or downloaded on the UNFPA web site, at Printed copies can be ordered from Suleman Chaudhary, Technical Support Division, UNFPA, 220 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017, USA.

Contact Information:

William A. Ryan
Tel.: +66 2 288 2446

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