Experts will issue a stark warning today that Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5, which aims to reduce maternal deaths by 75% before 2015, will only be met with intensified commitment and a focus on effective strategies.
The warning comes from a team writing in the Lancet as part of its Maternal Survival Series, which begins today. The authors call for action on the part of donors and governments to develop a clear strategic vision to reduce the 'largest discrepancy of all public health statistics'.
Women living in the world's poorest countries face a hugely disproportionate burden. Women in Sub-Saharan Africa face a one in 16 risk of dying during pregnancy or childbirth, and in South Asia a one in 43 risk, compared with one in 30,000 in Sweden. Good maternal health is crucial to the welfare of the whole household. Preventing the death of a mother has critical impacts on the health of a child, and improvements in maternal health link to achievements in other MDGs related to poverty eradication, female empowerment, child survival and infectious disease.
The authors say that although the challenge of reducing maternal deaths is complex, we already know enough about what works to begin to take action. Dr. Carine Ronsmans, Reader in Epidemiology and Reproductive Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and one of the series authors, comments: 'Maternal deaths cluster around labour, delivery and the immediate postpartum, with obstetric haemorrhage as the main medical cause. For this reason delivery with a skilled attendant must be the priority. This is a huge challenge with no quick fixes and progress in the poorest countries is jeopardized by absence of human resources, weak health systems, continuing high fertility, and poor data.
'The immediate priority for Governments and donors should be to invest in the training, deployment and retention of skilled attendants, especially midwives, who we know can make a
Contact: Lindsay Wright
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine