As moms in the United States gear up for Mother's Day, it seems like a perfect time to speak up about the importance of one of the most critical global goals of our time. Improving the health of our mothers around the world, and saving their lives, is a goal that rests high on the global agenda – but it’s progress has been slow-going. In fact, some maternal health experts have asserted maternal health has seen the slowest progress of all of the Millennium Development Goals (known as the 'MDGs' - a set of agreements made by many of the world’s governments to improve and save the lives of millions around the world).
As we approach the looming Millennium Development Goals 2015 deadline more emphasis is being placed on the MDGs that potentially may not be met. Millennium Development Goal #5 or “Improve Maternal Health” is one of those. In fact, it was recently reported that the maternal health goal would not be met by 2015 according to the World Bank’s and International Monetary Fund’s Global Monitoring Report.
Don’t give up hope. Despite these grim reminders--that over 350,000 women die every year during childbirth-- there are successes and there is movement toward measurable progress to reduce the rate of maternal deaths globally.
What better time than Mother's Day to strengthen our commitment to mothers?
The annual State of the World’s Mothers report was released this week. The report analyzes the best and the worst places to be a mother around the world. It provides a necessary look into those countries which invest heavily in strong policies and programs to ensure the health and lives of mothers are cared for; and into those countries where mothers struggle to access even the most basic of care and services.
If you’ll come with me on this quick jaunt around the world, I’ll give you a glimpse into what some countries are doing, or have recently pledged to do, to save the lives of their mothers.
Just this week Ghana’s Vice President, Dr. John Dramani Mahama, announced that Ghana had received a loan for 52 million Euros expressly to fight maternal deaths, and the country has already started placing three ambulances in each district in order for expecting mothers to have greater access to reliable transport to health facilities. Transportation issues continue to be one of the largest problems impeding women from reaching hospitals in developing nations where they can deliver their babies with trained health workers.
Also this week South Africa successfully implemented CARMMA, the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa. CARMMA is a continent-wide program aimed to dramatically reduce maternal mortality through skilled birth attendants, family planning, better transportation to hospitals, and access to improved prenatal care, as well as care for children and infants. CARMMA was put into place throughout Africa because the continent accounts for 53% of global maternal mortality. Nearly the entire continent has CARMMA programs already in place. The Ivory Coast, Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, and Gabon are preparing for program launches.
Additionally, Cambodia’s Health Minister, Mam Bunheng, announced in the United States that maternal deaths have been reduced successfully to reach MDG 5. Cambodia set a goal to reduce deaths to 250 per 100,000 live births. According to Bunheng, the goal has been exceeded and the mortality rate now sits at 206 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. The goal was successfully reached through concerted countrywide efforts to ensure women deliver their babies in facilities with trained health workers.
There is promising news for women in Malawi and Liberia, where maternal death rates are drastically high. This week in Monrovia, Africa’s only two female presidents—Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Malawian President Joyce Banda—pledged to work together to reduce maternal mortality according to AllAfrica.com.
While the maternal health goals are significantly off track in many developing countries, evidence remains that countries are working to implement solutions to the maternal mortality problem. In addition to program implementations, the global health community is also looking for accountability as well as measurable results in order to replicate programs should they work.
As the Millennium Development Goals deadline draws near, we are sure to hear of many program successes as well as failures. It’s through these evidence-based initiatives that maternal deaths will ultimately reach the goal of a reduction of two thirds; the original goal set by the United Nations in 2000. This goal is within the reach of the global community as long as improving the health and lives of our mothers remains firmly on our global agenda.
And what better time than Mother's Day to strengthen our commitment to mothers?