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Ending global poverty begins with women’s rights
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Maternal Mortality: Pregnancy as a Death Sentence

by Luna Allison | June 8, 2010

In most places in the world, getting pregnant can be a death sentence.
It seems too terrible to be possible, but it’s true. Pregnancy is the leading killer of women of reproductive age in developing countries. More than half a million women die every year in pregnancy and childbirth.

This isn’t only a crisis for the world’s women, it’s a crisis for their children. Children without mothers are three times as likely to die before their fifth birthday.
There is good news, however. In 2000, the international community made a commitment to reducing the maternal mortality rate by 75 per cent by 2015. Ten years later, we are seeing the results of this commitment. Sri Lanka, Egypt, Thailand and Malaysia have all seen a rapid decline in deaths of pregnant women.


But we’re still not where we need to be. Every minute of every day, a woman dies in pregnancy and childbirth. If this is going to change – and it must change – donor countries need to step up. This is going to require strategic, reliable, and long-term aid. It will mean repairing and strengthening health systems. It will mean investing in more health workers, especially midwives and obstetricians. It will mean making health services free and accessible. It will mean tackling the systemic inequalities that force women to put their health care last. And it will mean making health services work for all.


What this will look like:

  1. Increasing investment in maternal health.
  2. Making the best use of aid money.
  3. Redressing gender equality.
  4. Using maternal mortality rates as a measure of health systems.

If these four steps become a reality, it will save the lives of five million women over the next 10 years. 
For more information, please see the attached briefing paper.

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