Failure to reduce maternal mortality rates shames us all, Norway tells UN

25 September 2008

The world’s failure to make substantial inroads in reducing the number of women who die in pregnancy or childbirth is a damning illustration of the wider treatment of women, Norway’s Prime Minister told the General Assembly tonight.

Addressing the annual high-level debate at United Nations Headquarters in New York, Jens Stoltenberg said it was clear that the world had not taken the issue of maternal mortality – the focus of one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – seriously.

“The fact that we have not made any significant progress at all in reducing the number of women who die in pregnancy or childbirth is appalling,” he told delegates. “There can only be one reason for this awful situation – and that is persistent neglect of women in a world dominated by men.”

Mr. Stoltenberg said “all this human tragedy is avoidable by simple means,” and a report issued last week by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found that more than 500,000 women die unnecessarily every year because of complications from pregnancy or childbirth – nearly all of them in the developing world.

“Just think of all these millions of young girls and young women who know, and who fear and dread, that giving life may cause their death,” the Prime Minister said.

He noted that “money doesn’t seem to be a problem when the problem is money,” referring to the current crisis on Wall Street and the wider financial markets around the world.

“There, unsound investment threatens the homes and the jobs of the middle class. There is something fundamentally wrong when money seems to be abundant, but funds for investment in people seem so short in supply.”

Mr. Stoltenberg called for stronger international frameworks so that more funding can be directed to such projects as building schools in Afghanistan, supporting hospitals in Rwanda or providing vaccinations for residents of slums and ghettos worldwide.


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Nearly all maternal deaths occur in developing countries, UNICEF report finds

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