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

05 November 2014

West Darfur woman defies opposition to antenatal care, safely delivers triplets

MORNEI, Sudan – Raising awareness of the importance of maternal health care is the first step toward improving maternal survival. This is what 26-year-old Khadija Abdulla did when she safely gave birth to triplets in the conflict-affected state of West Darfur. more
04 November 2014

UNFPA supports pregnant women affected by floods in Pakistan

PUNJAB PROVINCE, Pakistan – When torrential rains flooded Asma Bibi’s village last month, the pregnant 18 year old was able to reach a rural health centre in the neighbouring Jhang District, where she received basic care and health supplies. But not all expectant mothers were able to make it to higher ground. more
03 November 2014

New Report Shows More Women and Girls Have Access to Contraceptives in the World's Poorest Countries

LONDON—Today, Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) released its second progress report detailing achievements since the landmark 2012 London Summit on Family Planning. more
24 October 2014

New birthing facility provides culturally sensitive maternal care for indigenous women in the Philippines

SITIO GAWASAN, Philippines – The journey from Sitio Gawasan, on the Philippines island of Mindanao, to the nearest district health centre can take up to four hours – a trip few expectant mothers can afford to take. With UNFPA support, the local indigenous Arumanen community has built a culturally sensitive birthing centre, making safe delivery options more accessible than ever. more
20 October 2014

Pregnant in the shadow of Ebola: Deteriorating health systems endanger women

MONROVIA, Liberia – Thirty-six year old Comfort Fayiah, in Monrovia, Liberia, never imagined her pregnancy would end the way it did – with her giving birth on the side of the road, in a heavy downpour, to twins. Throughout the three countries worst affected by the Ebola crisis, many women are refusing to seek care from health centres, and some overwhelmed, undersupplied health facilities are turning away those who arrive. more