Women, Health and Safety
Reducing Maternal Mortality—Empowering Women and Girls
In June 2000, 1,400 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society representatives from around the world answered the invitation of the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to develop a set of general goals to be recommended to their governments. The result of their efforts was realized in September 2000 in the form of eight measurable goals to be reached by 2015. These are known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
These MDGs are the following:
- Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
- Achieve universal primary education.
- Promote gender equality and empower women.
- Reduce child mortality.
- Improve maternal health.
- Combat HIV, malaria and other diseases.
- Ensure environmental sustainability.
- Create a global partnership for development.
The goal we are highlighting is MDG 5, improving maternal health. This goal aims to reduce by three-quarters the worldwide maternal mortality rate. In September of this year, the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly recommitted to reaching these goals by 2015.
According to UNICEF, major medical causes of maternal deaths include “hemorrhage, eclampsia, unsafe abortion, infection and obstructed labor.” UNICEF also points out that “other, more subtle factors influence a woman’s chance of survival.”
The U.N. Department of Public Information states that “more than 350,000 women die annually from complications during pregnancy or childbirth, almost all of them—99 percent—in developing countries,” and “every year, more than 1 million children are left motherless. Children who have lost their mothers are up to 10 times more likely to die prematurely than those who have not.”
“Gender discrimination and lack of education can be just as deadly as medical complications. A woman who is informed about her medical and family planning options, and who has the ability to make her own decisions, is better able to protect her own health, and that of her family.”
A number of NGOs are striving to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three-quarters by 2015. Some of these include United States Agency for International Development (USAID); Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health; and CARE International.
USAID is working with NGOs to reduce pregnancy-related deaths in developing countries and is receiving mixed results.
“This approach has proven successful in reducing maternal mortality in a number of USAID–assisted countries. In Egypt, for example, maternal mortality has declined by 52 percent since the late 1980s. Honduras (41 percent) and Guatemala (30 percent) have also experienced substantial decreases in maternal mortality. Sub-Saharan Africa is not sharing in such successes, however. Most countries in the region have had little or no reduction in maternal mortality in the past decade, and recent demographic and health surveys indicate that maternal mortality has increased in Zimbabwe and Malawi. The HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa likely contributes to these trends.”
In Pakistan, the mortality rate for children under age 5 has dropped from 130 per 1,000 infants to 89 per 1,000 in 2008 as a result of the work of UNICEF and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.
CARE International, a British-based aid organization, boasts: “In Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia, CARE increased access to emergency obstetric care and cut fatality rates in emergency obstetric care facilities by 30 percent to 50 percent."
In Peru, CARE strengthened community capacity to address maternal health risks, resulting in a 50 percent reduction in maternal mortality in the remote project area and a doubling of women accessing health services and treatment for obstetric complications in health centers. The Peruvian minister of health established new national clinical guidelines for obstetrical emergencies based on those developed through CARE’s project.
In India, CARE advanced a 10-year program in nine states, one of the largest NGO public health programs in the world, to strengthen the quality and coverage of maternal and child health services and to improve maternal and child survival in more than 90,000 villages.
Three U.S. programs that fund global maternal health programs are USAID, the Global Health and Child Survival Initiative (GHCS) and the Global Health Initiative (GHI). USAID spent $443 million on child survival and maternal health projects in 2007, five times the amount received in 2001. GHCS received $8.24 billion in commitment through fiscal year 2011. And GHI was introduced in 2010, designating a six-year budget of $63 billion to “improve maternal and child health in developing countries as well as to implement family planning and nutrition programs.” Overall, the child survival and maternal health portion of the U.S. government budget for fiscal year 2010 was $555 million.
For additional information, contact Esmeralda Brown, Executive Secretary for U.N. Affairs, Women’s Division, General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church at (212) 682-3114 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Urge your congressional representative to support and co-sponsor H.R. 5268, the Global Maternal and Newborn Health Outcomes while Maximizing Successes (MOMS) Act. Sponsored by Representative Lois Capps (D-Calif.), the Global MOMS Act amends the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to authorize the president to furnish assistance to reduce mortality and improve maternal health.
There are numerous volunteer organizations that are striving to achieve MDG 5. The following is a brief list of organizations that could benefit from additional volunteers:
To find additional volunteer organizations, search the World Volunteer Web.
Read “The United Methodist Church, Justice and World Hunger” (¶ 4051, p. 557), and “Globalization and its Impact on Human Dignity and Human Rights” (¶6025, p. 738) from the Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church (Nashville, Tenn.: The United Methodist Publishing House, 2008).