Every day over 1000 women die in pregnancy or childbirth. Every 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. These range from chronic infections to disabling injuries such as obstetric fistula.
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
UNFPA supports safe motherhood initiatives in 89 countries. UNFPA-supported progammes emphasize capacity development in maternal care, especially the strengthening of needed human resources. In emergency settings such as conflict or natural disasters, when women are especially vulnerable, UNFPA seeks to make pregnancy and childbirth as safe as possible. Cadres of professionally trained midwives have been critical to these successes. In many countres though, severe shortages of trained health providers with midwifery skills are holding back progress. And UNFPA's 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.