One woman dies every minute during pregnancy or childbirth, adding up to more than 500,000 dead women each year. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
For every woman who dies, there are 20 to 30 others who survive childbirth but suffer debilitating injuries. If we are serious about providing health security to women, we must guarantee universal access to family planning, skilled attendance at birth, emergency obstetric care and services to prevent and treat sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Safe Motherhood Initiative. Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among young women aged 15 to 19 in developing countries.
This is unacceptable and constitutes a public health crisis. Most of these lives could be saved with cost effective interventions. For example, in Egypt and Honduras maternal mortality ratio was reduced by half in only seven years. Key to success is government leadership.
World leaders agree on the priority to reduce needless deaths during pregnancy and childbirth as reflected in Millennium Development Goal 5 to improve maternal health. To make greater progress, every woman needs access to a basic package of reproductive health services.
It is estimated that ensuring access to voluntary family planning could reduce maternal deaths by 20 to 35 per cent, and child deaths by as much as 20 per cent. Ensuring skilled attendance in delivery, backed up by emergency obstetric care, would reduce maternal deaths by about 75 per cent.
To commemorate the International Day of the Midwife on May 5th, the United Nations Population Fund, (UNFPA) pays tribute to midwives around the world. We join others in voicing our appreciation for the loving care these skilled health workers provide to pregnant women, young mothers and infants. And we call for urgent action to address the shortage of midwives in many countries.
In every country, women and families count on midwives to ensure a safe delivery and healthy newborn. Midwives make a tremendous contribution to the health of mothers and babies worldwide.
Yet, half of the worldâ€™s pregnant women still lack access to skilled care at childbirth and the consequences are devastating. Every year, an estimated 529,000 women die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth, four million newborn die, and another four million babies are stillborn.
This is more than the combined total of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria deaths. In addition, 10 million more women suffer debilitating injuries such as infertility, uterine prolapse or obstetric fistula. Skilled assistance is critical to lowering the number of women killed or injured while giving birth.
It is estimated that ensuring skilled attendance in delivery, backed up by emergency obstetric care, could reduce maternal deaths by 75 per cent.
The theme of this yearâ€™s observance, â€œMidwives reach out to women â€“ wherever they liveâ€, reminds us of the importance of ensuring the presence of midwives in communities where their services are urgently needed.
Today, UNFPA calls for greater investment in the training, recruitment, pay and working conditions of midwives. Some 700,000 more midwives are needed to provide universal access to skilled care at birth.
The world can make greater progress in improving maternal health by ensuring access to skilled attendance at delivery, emergency obstetric care if complications arise and family planning. These reproductive health services save lives.
UNFPA reiterates its call to governments and their partners to increase investment in reproductive health as an urgent priority.
With this year marking the 20th anniversary of the Safe Motherhood Initiative, there is no better time to strengthen health systems and health workforces to protect the health of mothers, children and families.
High maternal death points to a health crisis