With one woman dying every single minute from complications during pregnancy or childbirth, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro today urged greater investment to improve women’s health, including reducing maternal deaths.
“Now, it is time for the world to deliver for women. It is time to increase investment in women’s health and well-being,” Ms. Migiro said at the opening of Women Deliver, a three-day global conference taking place in London aimed at reducing maternal deaths.
“This is not only an imperative in its own right; it is also a prerequisite if entire nations are to lift themselves out of poverty,” she told the gathering of over 1,500 decision-makers, experts, celebrities, women’s rights activists and representatives of non-governmental organizations.
Earlier this week, several UN agencies warned that the number of women who die in pregnancy and childbirth is not declining fast enough to achieve the global target of reducing maternal deaths by three quarters by 2015, also known as Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5.
Attaining that target will require an annual decline of 5.5 per cent in maternal mortality ratios between 1990 and 2015. But the current annual decline is less than 1 per cent, according to figures released by the UN World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Bank.
Ms. Migiro noted that only small gains have been made in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where the majority of maternal deaths occur.
In addition, of all health indicators, maternal mortality shows the largest gap between rich and poor, both within and among countries. Estimates show that a woman in a developed country faces a risk of 1 in 7,300 of dying during pregnancy or childbirth. The risk is 1 in 75 for a woman in a developing country. In Africa, it is 1 in 26.
“We know that we will not make poverty history until we end maternal mortality. And we know what works and what needs to be done,” she stated, urging that sexual and reproductive health be made a priority.
Meanwhile, UNFPA has received a pledge of £100 million over five years from the United Kingdom towards promoting safe childbirth and reproductive health.
Welcoming today’s announcement, made at the Women Deliver conference, UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Obaid said the funds will enable the agency to dramatically reduce the number of maternal deaths and unwanted pregnancies around the world.