Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

'Saving Mothers' Launched to Combat Maternal Death

June 29, 2012

One of the most critical problems worldwide is the massive amount of women who die during childbirth or from childbirth complications in the developing world. In fact, 800 women die every day giving birth. That number clearly needs to be reduced. The Millennium Development Goal 5.A or “reduce by two-thirds the maternal mortality ratio” is unlikely to be met by 2015. This dismal prediction, however, is not stopping a government, NGOs and the private sector from working together to lower maternal mortality rates in Africa.

In June a new organization was launched to save mothers naming themselves appropriately Saving Mothers, Giving Life (Saving Mothers). A partnership between the Government of Norway, Merck for Mothers, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College), U.S. Global Health Initiative (GHI), and Every Mother Counts, Saving Mothers was forged to help reduce maternal mortality in countries that experience extremely high rates of maternal deaths.

During a break at the recent Child Survival Summit in Washington, Geralyn Ritter, who is the head of Merck’s Policy and Corporate Responsibility and President of the Merck Company Foundation told me in an interview, “Merck has a tremendous history of partnering. When we launched Merck for Mothers we knew we wanted to go into it with collaboration. We see Saving Mothers as innovative and cutting edge.”

Working in Uganda and Zambia at the outset Saving Mothers will provide health services during labor, delivery and 24-hours postpartum to ensure more women can give birth and stay alive. Providing $200 million in financial and in-kind resources Savings Mothers will push to reduce maternal deaths by up to 50 percent in country districts where maternal mortality is highest.

Leveraging the expertise of its partners Saving Mothers will examine ways to scale its efforts when programs have been developed and refined that can be replicated elsewhere. Additionally, Saving Mothers  has allotted financial resources to not only provide health services to expecting mothers, but to improve community health systems within the districts in which they will work.

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