Making sure pregnant women throughout the world can give birth in a health centre, in the presence of a midwife, is the best strategy to ensure their survival, according to a landmark series of papers published by The Lancet and launched at a press briefing in London today (Wednesday September 27, 2006). The authors warn that without political commitment and investment into such a strategy, substantial declines in maternal deaths are unlikely in the next 10-20 years, and the fifth Millennium Development Goal to reduce maternal mortality by 75% by 2015 - will not be met.
Over half a million women die in pregnancy or childbirth each year. For every 30 000 women in Sweden, one will die of maternal causes. In sub-Saharan Africa the average figure is a staggering one in 16 and in South Asia one in 43. The maternal survival series reveals the causes of these deaths, details the best strategy to prevent them, and outlines the action that is urgently required by governments and the international community.
Industrialised countries and some developing countries have had dramatic reductions in maternal deaths. The same is possible in other countries if a few key strategic choices are made by those with the real power to act--the politicians, donors, UN agencies, and professional bodies--state the authors. Training and retaining health workers and removing the financial costs of health care form a key part of the strategy to save the lives of 529 000 women who die from pregnancy-related causes each year.
A booklet containing the five papers that form the series and five accompanying comments, the press release, and other media materials will be available at the briefing.
Chair: Dr Richard Horton, Editor of The Lancet
Dr Carine Ronsmans, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK
Dr Oona Campbell, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK