BECAUSE EVERYONE COUNTS                                                                 WWW.UNFPA.ORG

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international
development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man
and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA
supports countries in using population data for policies and pro-
grammes to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is
wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS,
and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.


       EVERY DAY, ONE THOUSAND WOMEN DIE IN                           In Africa and South Asia, complications during preg-
       PREGNANCY OR CHILDBIRTH — Almost all of these                  nancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for
      women—99 per cent—live and die in developing coun-              women of childbearing age. Young women aged 15-20
      tries. Since 1990, the global maternal death rate has de-       are twice as likely to die in childbirth as those in their
      creased by 34 per cent, from over 500,000 to 360,000.           twenties. Girls under the age of 15 are five times more
      While this progress is encouraging, it should be taken as       likely to die from maternal causes.
      a call to further action. With only five years until the 2015
                                                                      Globally, the two leading causes of death in women of
      deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals
                                                                      reproductive age are AIDS and complications of preg-
      (MDG), the annual rate of progress will have to more
                                                                      nancy and childbirth. A recent analysis indicates that in
      than double if MDG 5, improving maternal and reproduc-
                                                                      Eastern and Southern Africa there is a strong connection
      tive health, is to be reached.
                                                                      between maternal mortality and HIV and that the virus
                                                                      is likely slowing efforts to reduce maternal mortality in
      THE CURRENT SITUATION                                           some African countries.
      Every year, 360,000 women die from pregnancy
                                                                      Maternal mortality represents one of the greatest
      related causes. Another 10–15 million suffer severe or
                                                                      health disparities between rich and poor countries and
      long-lasting illnesses or disabilities caused by complica-
                                                                      between the rich and poor within countries. The risk
      tions during pregnancy or childbirth. These range from
                                                                      of a woman dying in sub-Saharan Africa as a result of
      obstetric fistula to infertility and depression.
                                                                      pregnancy or childbirth is 1 in 31, as compared to 1 in
      Since 1990, the number of women dying in pregnancy              4300 in developed regions.
      and childbirth has declined by over 50 per cent in Asia
                                                                      The number of maternal deaths is highest in coun-
      and 25 per cent sub-Saharan Africa. While the progress
                                                                      tries where women are least likely to have skilled
      is notable and indicates that current interventions are
                                                                      attendance at delivery, such as a midwife, doctor or
      working-- increasing access to family planning, skilled at-
                                                                      other trained health professional. An estimated 35 per
      tendance at birth and access to emergency obstetric care
                                                                      cent of pregnant women in developing countries do not
      when needed—progress has been too slow.
                                                                      have contact with health personnel prior to giving birth.
      The leading causes of maternal deaths are haemor-               In sub-Saharan Africa about 70 per cent have no contact
      rhage, infections, unsafe abortions, high blood pres-           with health personnel following childbirth.
      sure leading to seizures, and obstructed labour. These
                                                                      The consequences of losing over half-a million women
      complications are highly treatable if adequate care,
                                                                      every year have a ripple effect in families, communi-
      supplies and medicine are available.
                                                                      ties and nations. Children without mothers are less likely
      Every year, more than one million children are left             to receive proper nutrition, health care, and education.
      motherless and vulnerable because of maternal death.            The implications for girls tend to be even greater, lead-
      Children who have lost their mothers are up to 10 times         ing to a continued cycle of poverty and poor health.
      more likely to die prematurely than those who have not.         And every year, $15 billion in productivity is lost due
                                                                      to maternal and newborn mortality, a huge burden on
                                                                      developing nations.

                              BECAUSE EVERYONE COUNTS                                                                WWW.UNFPA.ORG

      Improving maternal health is intricately linked to         and newborns. Every year, the lives of nearly 400,000
      improving women’s overall health. Women need               women and 1.6 million infants would be saved. And unsafe
      access to continuous health care before, during and        abortions would decline from 20 million to 5.5 million.
      after pregnancy. It is estimated that around half the
      pregnant women in the world suffer from anaemia,           When women and newborns survive, families, nations
      a danger during pregnancy if un-treated. Maternal          and communities thrive. With a reduction of maternal
      under-nutrition, common in sub-Saharan Africa and          and child deaths comes a host of other development
      South Asia, also reduces women’s chances of surviving      benefits including reduced poverty and increased
      haemorrhage during pregnancy.                              economic development in poor countries.

                                                                 Implementing strategies to reduce maternal death and
      Maternal health is directly linked to women’s social
                                                                 disability, strengthen health systems to the benefit
      status and how empowered they are to make decisions.
                                                                 of all. Maternal health indicators are used to gauge health
      In societies where men traditionally control household
                                                                 system performance in terms of access, gender eq-
      finances the health of women is often not considered a
                                                                 uity and institutional efficiency. Investing in maternal
      priority and women are frequently not in a position to
                                                                 health holds the promise of improving the overall health
      decide if or when to become pregnant and the number,
                                                                 of communities.
      spacing and timing of their children.

                                                                 WHAT IS UNFPA DOING?
                                                                 The Fund supports activities to improve maternal and
     Maternal mortality has long been one of the world’s most    reproductive health in about 89 countries through tech-
     neglected problems, but the issue as a development          nical and financial assistance for reproductive health
     priority has been gaining momentum as the solutions         programmes. This is undertaken in close partnership with
     and benefits of action have become better understood.       national governments, sister United Nations agencies, as
     Today we are on the verge of a tipping point, where with    well as the World Bank. Activities range from provid-
     an increase in political will and financial commitments,    ing technical assistance for family planning, advocat-
     dramatic progress is within reach. The international        ing for health reforms and upgrading health facilities to
     community has a responsibility to increase investment       improving midwifery curricula and training mobilizing
     levels and offer long-term financial support for mater-     communities and promoting women’s rights.
     nal health and family planning policies and programmes.
     And impacted countries need to adopt and effectively
     implement policies that prioritize maternal health. This    THE MATERNAL HEALTH THEMATIC FUND:
     includes a considerable investment in human resources       In 2008, UNFPA launched the Maternal Health Thematic
     for maternal health such as midwives and others with        Fund (MHTF) to accelerate progress towards making
     midwifery skills.                                           safe motherhood a reality in some of the poorest coun-
                                                                 tries in the world, with maternal mortality ratios of over
      BENEFITS OF ACTION                                         300 deaths per 100,000 live births. The approach of the
                                                                 MHTF is to strengthen national health systems, rather
     The vast majority of maternal and newborn deaths can be
                                                                 than create parallel structures, and to help governments
     prevented through simple and cost effective measures. If
                                                                 overcome obstacles that prevent their own maternal
     all women had access to family planning, a skilled atten-
                                                                 health plans from succeeding.
     dant at birth, and emergency obstetric care when needed,
     maternal mortality would be dramatically reduced.           For more information on UNFPA’s work –
      Ensuring access to voluntary family planning could re-     please visit
      duce maternal deaths by more than one third and child
      deaths by as much as 20 per cent.                          Main sources for this fact sheet:
                                                                 Adding it Up : The Cost and Benefit of Investing in Family
      Ensuring skilled attendance at all births, backed by       Planning and Maternal and Newborn Health. Guttmacher
      emergency obstetric care when needed, would reduce         Institute/ UNFPA , 2009.
      maternal deaths by about 75 per cent.
                                                                 The Lancet’s Maternal Survival and Women Deliver
      Doubling the current global investment in family plan-     Series (2006/2007), the 2005 World Health Report
      ning and maternal and newborn health care – from 12        and UNFPA publications.
      to 24 billion would radically reduce deaths of women       Trends in Maternal Mortality. WHO, UNFPA, UNICEF,
                                                                 The World Bank, 2010.


To top