Devpro Resource Centre

Maternal mortality

'Missing mothers'

This year alone, more than 500,000 women will die during pregnancy or childbirth. That’s one woman missing every minute of every day. We call these women ‘missing’ because their deaths could have been avoided. In fact, 80 per cent of maternal deaths could be averted if women had access to essential maternal health services.

We know where and how these women are dying, and we have the resources to prevent these deaths. Yet, maternal mortality is still one of the most neglected problems internationally.

As a parliamentarian, a representative of a non-governmental organization, an activist, an academician or a donor, here are 10 ways YOU can make a difference:

1. Spread awareness
Bring attention to the needless deaths of women around the world; deaths that could have and should have been avoided. Innovative communication tools, like the message video and banner adverts posted here below, may be useful in your efforts.

Click on the video to play, embed or share.

A series of stills are available below as resizable PDF files.

Please contact us for hi-res file requests.

One woman every minute
PDF (80 KB)

This year alone

PDF (38 KB)

The greatest health divide

PDF (269 KB)

Time is running out...

PDF (61 KB)

  • Distribute these tools to maternal health and women's rights activists, policymakers, public health professionals, practitioners, media channels, artists.
  • Use these tools in presentations, conferences and meetings to spread the word about women who die for lack of maternal health-care services.
  • Post these tools as a resource for your web audience.

2. Be informed
Learn about critical issues in maternal and newborn health and policies, programmes and partnerships aimed at improving the same. United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) publications on gender equality, safe motherhood and reproductive health, UNICEF’s The State of the World’s Children 2009: Maternal and Newborn Health and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Health Statistics Report are current and comprehensive sources of information.

3. Report every maternal death
National civil registration systems must be improved. Maternal death reviews will provide the evidence that can impel improvements in the quality of maternal care. Maternal Mortality in 2005: Estimates developed by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and The World Bank provides information on approaches to measuring maternal mortality.

4. Provide maternal health services for all
Provide every woman with access to family planning based on individual countries’ policies; antenatal care including prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV; a skilled birth attendant who has knowledge of danger signs and is linked with a referral system for emergency obstetric care; and post-natal care. Learn about linking antenatal care prevention of mother-to-child services in Mozambique.

5. Lower financial barriers
High costs must not prevent women from accessing essential health services. Incentives such as conditional cash transfers can bring maternal health services to the poor. Learn about how Burundi’s government is prioritizing free health care for pregnant women and children.

6. Engage the private sector
Encourage public-private partnerships to improve access to and maintain standards of maternal care. Learn about a successful public-private partnership for maternal health in India.

7. Invest in maternal health
Donors must increase their financial contributions to maternal health in low-income countries. The International Health Partnership (IHP+) has brought together a high-level task force, which aims to bridge national resource gaps by mobilizing innovative and effective financing for health systems internationally.

8. Use budgets more efficiently
Governments must be more flexible and less narrowly focused on individual diseases in using existing funds. Learn about Nigeria’s national, phased, high-impact strategy to address maternal, neonatal and child health challenges.

9. Educate every child
An educated mother is less likely to die during childbirth. Every extra year of schooling a girl achieves improves her own life chances and those of her children. Education for all is essential to reduce maternal mortality. Learn about the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative GAP Project that assesses progress towards gender parity in education.

10. Empower women
When women’s overall status in society is improved and they have greater autonomy and decision-making power, they will be more able to access available services and to take charge of their own health and that of their children. Learn about the United Nations Development Fund for Women’s (UNIFEM) efforts to foster women's empowerment and gender equality throughout the world.

January 2009



Top 5 reads

  • From The Lancet:
    The Lancet Maternal Survival Series, September-October 2006
    Series articles
    1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

    A. Rosenfield and D. Maine, "Maternal Mortality - A neglected tragedy", July 13, 1985
    access report

  • WHO, The World Health Report 2005: Make every mother and child count
    access report

  • PMNCH, Opportunities for Africa's newborns: Practical data, policy and programmatic support for newborn care in Africa, 2006
    access report

  • UNFPA, Delivering on the Promise of Equality: UNFPA's Strategic Framework for Gender Mainstreaming and Women's Empowerment 2008-2011
    access report

  • The World Bank, Good Practices in Health Financing: Lessons from reforms in low- and middle-income countries, 2008
    access report

Join us in our efforts

Organizations campaigning to reduce maternal and newborn deaths include:

International Confederation of Midwives (ICM)

If you would like to add your organization here please send us an email.

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