Safe Motherhood

Stepping up Efforts to Save Mothers' Lives

Every day, almost 800 women die in pregnancy or childbirth. Every two minutes, the loss of a mother shatters a family and threatens the well-being of surviving children. Evidence shows that infants whose mothers die are more likely to die before reaching their second birthday than infants whose mothers survive. And for every woman who dies, 20 or more experience serious complications.

Of the hundreds of thousands of women who die during pregnancy or childbirth each year, 90 per cent live in Africa and Asia. The majority of women are dying from severe bleeding, infections, eclampsia, obstructed labour and the consequences of unsafe abortions--all  causes for which we have highly effective interventions.

Working for the survival of mothers is a human rights imperative. It also has enormous socio-economic ramifications – and is a crucial international development priority. Both the International Conference on Population and Development and Millennium Development Goals call for a 75 per cent reduction in maternal mortality between 1990 and 2015.  This three-pronged strategy is key to the accomplishment of the goal:

  • All women have access to contraception to avoid unintended pregnancies
  • All pregnant women have access to skilled care at the time of birth
  • All those with complications have timely access to quality emergency obstetric care

In 2008, UNFPA established the  Maternal Health Thematic Fund to increase the capacity of national health systems to provide a broad range of quality maternal health services, reduce health inequities, and empower women to exercise their right to maternal health. The Campaign to End Fistula and the UNFPA-ICM Midwifery Programme are now integrated into this umbrella fund.

UNFPA has also teamed up with five partners, UNICEF, the World Bank, World Health Organization, UNAIDS and UNWomen, to accelerate progress in saving the lives of women and newborns. Collectively known as the 'The Health 4+' or 'H4+',  the six agencies have pledged to support countries with the highest maternal mortality rates.

The H4+ joined the Every Woman Every Child effort in 2010 to support to the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health. The agencies have helped countries to make commitments to this global initiative, and with the UN’s MDG Advocates and partners, are supporting a group of countries—that together accounts for almost 60 per cent of global maternal deaths—to mobilize the financial, technical and human resources needed to meet their commitments.

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Latest News

16 October 2014

Ebola Wiping Out Gains in Safe Motherhood

UNITED NATIONS, New York — As the world intensifies its response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, the needs of pregnant women must be addressed urgently to save the lives of mothers and infants, warns UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. more
03 October 2014

Fear of health workers fuels Ebola crisis in Guinea

CONAKRY/NEW YORK – Panic over the Ebola outbreak in Guinea has inflamed distrust of health officials, impeding access to critical health services. UNFPA is reaching out to journalists and community leaders to dispel rumours about the disease and to encourage people to seek proper care – not only for suspected Ebola infections but also for other essential health needs. more
02 October 2014

Safe delivery services come to Domiz refugee camp, Iraq

DUHOK, Iraq – "The clinic is always crowded," said Lava Abdul Rahman, a gynaecologist at the UNFPA maternity clinic in Domiz, a refugee camp in northern Iraq. As Syrian refugees continue to arrive in Iraq, UNFPA is working to meet their reproductive health needs. Each day, between 30 and 35 pregnant women come to the clinic for antenatal care, Dr. Rahman noted. more
01 October 2014

Bearing witness to a revolution in women’s health and rights

UNITED NATIONS, New York – Next year, Munira Sha’ban will celebrate her 50th year working as a nurse and midwife. Her career has taken her all over the world, to the halls of the United Nations, and, through a televised health show, into the homes of thousands of Jordanian families. In this interview with Ms. Sha’ban, she explains how the steady advancement of human rights has come to some of the most vulnerable women and girls – and what more must be done. more
26 September 2014

Leaders pledge to help end preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths within a generation

UNITED NATIONS, New York – By improving access to essential sexual and reproductive health services – including voluntary family planning and safe delivery care – preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths could be eliminated within a generation. This was the central message of a high-level event hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at UN Headquarters yesterday, where donors pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in support of the Every Woman Every Child movement. more