Championing safe motherhood – a global initiative

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Nursing a new born on the maternity ward!  Facts about maternal health worldwide

– An estimated 800 women die in pregnancy or childbirth every single day.
– For every woman who dies, an estimated 20 women or more experience severe complications, which range from chronic infections to disabling injuries.
– Of the hundreds of women who die during pregnancy or childbirth, about 90% live in Africa and Asia. 

Every maternal death has enormous socio-economic ramifications. Not only does it shatter the entire family unit, but it also threatens the well-being of the surviving children – newly born babies whose mothers die are more likely to die before they their second birthday.

Championing safe motherhood is a human rights imperative and has become a crucial international development priority. 

Stepping up efforts to improve maternal and child health

The H4+ is an inter-agency alliance that has been formed for the express purpose of improving maternal and child health worldwide and especially in underserved countries. The H4+ comprises of the UNFPA and 5 partners, including the WHO, UNICEF, UNAIDS, UN Women and the World Bank. Together, these organisations work towards achieving Millennium Development Goals four and five, which include reducing child mortality and improving maternal health. 

The concerted endeavours of the H4+ have resulted in streamlined, productive efforts on the ground, which have proven to be much more effective than campaigns by individual entities. Each of the six partner organisations contributes their own unique expertise and resources to the field of maternal, reproductive, newborn and child health. The combined power of each partner’s strengths and capacities has resulted in enhanced positive developments in countries that would otherwise not have been on track to achieve the millennium development goals of improving maternal health and reducing child mortality.

As part of its mission to address the pressing issues of maternal, newborn and child mortality and morbidity, the H4+ strives to tackle the root causes of these issues, which include – but are not restricted to – gender inequality, lesser access to education for girls, child marriages and lack of professional healthcare. They also work towards more widespread HIV/AIDS education to eliminate or reduce the incidence of mother-to-child transmission.

To accomplish their goals, the H4+ has put together a three-pronged strategy, which includes:

– Easier access to contraception for all women to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
– Increased access to quality maternal care for all pregnant women throughout pregnancy and particularly at the time of birth.
– Access to skilled emergency obstetric care for all women with pregnancy-related complications. 

In developing countries, women continue to die needlessly because of the lack of access to contraception. Each pregnancy increases a woman’s chance of dying from complications of pregnancy or childbirth. The H4+ promotes and supports family planning services in countries across the world, usually within the broader context of reproductive health services.

In emergency settings such as conflict or natural disasters, when women are especially vulnerable, the alliance seeks to make pregnancy and childbirth as safe as possible. And their work to prevent fistula is also making pregnancy safer by providing much needed treatment and calling attention to health systems that are failing to meet the needs of women during the critical time of childbirth.

All of these efforts require huge amounts of resources not just in terms of time and money but also in terms of skilled and trained professionals. Midwives, neonatal nurses, obstetricians, paediatricians and public health nurses are the need of the hours to ensure that these goals are accomplished. 

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