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‘Women Deliver’ conference set to spur global action on maternal mortality

© UNICEF/HQ07-1435/Khemka
Khatira, 14, and her firstborn in Afghanistan, where women face a one in eight lifetime risk of maternal death, one of the highest in the world, in part because early marriage is common.

NEW YORK, USA, 17 October 2007 – Every minute of every day, a woman dies needlessly during pregnancy or childbirth, mostly in the developing world. These women are dying not because the international community doesn’t have the means to save them, but because it seemingly does not have the will.

The Women Deliver conference, which begins three days of deliberations tomorrow in London, seeks to change that. Uniting key international players under the theme, ‘Invest in women – it pays’, this groundbreaking global workshop seeks to:

  • Spotlight the connection between women's health, rights, education and poverty reduction
  • Encourage governments to make maternal health a high priority
  • Raise additional resources from the public and private sectors.
Worldwide inequity

Organized by a partnership of UN agencies, including UNICEF, as well as international NGOs and bilateral organizations, the conference is timed to mark the 20th anniversary of the Safe Motherhood Initiative, a global campaign launched at an international conference in Nairobi, Kenya.

The conference seeks, as well, to redress a grave worldwide inequity in maternal health.

In communities in industrialized countries where women have access to quality health care, the lifetime risk of maternal mortality is as low as 1 in 8,000. But in some developing countries – Afghanistan and Sierra Leone among them – a pregnant woman’s chance of dying is one in eight.

Key to achieving MDGs

The statistics are too startling to ignore – not only because these women deserve better, but because their survival is the linchpin to achieving many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), such as boosting child survival and slashing poverty (in addition to MDG5, which specifically calls for reducing the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters, by 2015).

This is the case because the death of a young mother in childbirth sets in motion a chain of negative consequences:

  • Infant survival rates plummet
  • Young girls are forced to leave school to care for siblings
  • Families and, in turn, communities sink deeper into poverty.

Women Deliver aims to convince the world community that the health of women, mothers and babies is vital to the health and development of entire nations. With increased political will and financial investment, most women and newborns can survive so that families, communities and countries can thrive.




Radio correspondent Mandy Cunningham reports on women struggling with the dangers of pregnancy and childbirth in Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan.

Making ends meet in a Pakistani hospital
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Pakistan’s home births and their dangers
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An Afghanistan hospital works for women
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Afghan Member of Parliament Fauzia Kofi
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In Nepal, a hospital without a doctor
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Kamala, a Nepali woman, tries to make it to hospital
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UNICEF radio

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