Imagine that you are a young woman who is pregnant, lives in a remote location far from a hospital, and you have a husband and mother-in law who think giving birth at home with an untrained attendant will suffice. Imagine that you are giving birth in a local health clinic and you start convulsing, and the medicine to help you and your unborn baby is simply not on the shelf, which is also slim on other, much-needed medications. Imagine that all goes well with your birth until you start bleeding and, even though you are in a hospital, there is no blood bank and a family member is asked to go out of the hospital to find a blood donor.
No woman should die giving birth, and yet maternal mortality, despite progress, remains one of the leading causes of death among women of reproductive age in developing countries. Most of these deaths are preventable. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently stated in Oslo, “… surviving childbirth and growing up healthy should not be a matter of luck or where you live or how much money you have. It should be a fact for every woman, everywhere.”
The Saving Mothers, Giving Life initiative represents a unique partnership through which the United States government has enlisted significant support from key public, private and non-governmental players in the global health field with one collective purpose—to reduce maternal mortality. The founding partners include the United States government, Merck’s Merck for Mothers initiative, the Government of Norway, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Every Mother Counts.
The Saving Mothers, Giving Life partnership is prioritizing countries where women and children are dying at alarming rates—starting in Uganda and Zambia. The initiative focuses on care for women and their babies around labor, delivery and the first 24 hours after birth, the most critical and vulnerable time, by strengthening district health systems that are essential to provide life-saving services in a sustainable way. It also looks for ways to identify other private sector partners to expand our reach.
Additionally, the Saving Mothers, Giving Life partnership is beginning to mobilize U.S. citizens to understand the problem of maternal and newborn mortality, and encourage donations to support women who have a lifetime chance of death that is as high as 120 times that of women in the U.S.
USAID is working with a number of other partnerships to advance science, test innovations and implement programs to rapidly decrease maternal and newborn mortality. Our optimism has a strong foundation based on what we know works: invest in education for girls and overall economic growth, improve use of family planning and maternity services, and develop new technologies to help in communications, training and accountability. If we stay focused on these areas, we’ll see the elimination of preventable maternal mortality within our lifetime.
Now imagine that!