UNICEF flagship report: Closing the gap in maternal and neonatal health

Having a child remains one of the biggest health risks for women worldwide. Fifteen hundred women die every day while giving birth. That's a half a million mothers every year.

UNICEF's flagship publication, The State of the World's Children 2009, addresses maternal mortality, one of the most intractable problems for development work.

The difference in pregnancy risk between women in developing countries and their peers in the industrialized world is often termed the greatest health divide in the world.

A woman in Niger has a one in seven chance of dying during the course of her lifetime from complications during pregnancy or delivery. That's in stark contrast to the risk for mothers in America, where it's one in 4,800 or in Ireland, where it's just one in 48,000.

Addressing that gap is a multidisciplinary challenge, requiring an emphasis on education, human resources, community involvement and social equality.

At a minimum, women must be guaranteed antenatal care, skilled birth attendants and emergency obstetrics, and postpartum care.

These essential interventions will only be guaranteed within the context of improved education and the abolition of discrimination.

UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, in a forward to the SOWC report, calls on renewed efforts to prevent "needless human tragedy."

"As the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals draws closer, the challenge for improving maternal and newborn health goes beyond meeting the goals," she writes. "Success will be measured in terms of lives saved and lives improved."

The State of the World's Children 2009 is available as a report in English, French, Spanish and Arabic and as a multimedia version in English, French, Spanish and Arabic. To download the full report as a PDF click on the links below.


The Full ReportThe State of the World's Children 2009 examines critical issues in maternal and newborn health, underscoring the need to establish a comprehensive continuum of care for mothers, newborns and children. The report outlines the latest paradigms in health programming and policies for mothers and newborns, and explores policies, programmes and partnerships aimed at improving maternal and neonatal health. Africa and Asia are a key focus for this report, which complements the previous year's issue on child survival.

Download the full report PDF


Photo essay

Maternal and newborn health crisis