UK Government aid contributes to dramatic decline in women dying in childbirth in Bangladesh and Nepal
1 July 2008 - A new report from DFID shows that UK Government investments in improving maternal health in the world’s poorest countries have paid off.
Two per cent of the world’s total development aid would be enough to reduce the number of women dying in childbirth by 75% by 2015. This is one of the headlines in DFID’s Maternal Health Progress Strategy Report 2007(243 kb) tracking the UK Government’s efforts to improve maternal health in the world’s poorest countries.
The Maternal Health Strategy Progress Report 2007 shows that DFID’s spending on projects exclusively tackling maternal and newborn health has increased ten-fold since 2002 to £23.2 million. This is included in DFID’s overall spend on health, which is close to £800 million annually.
With pregnancy and childbirth claiming the lives of over half a million women every year, UK efforts have centred on key areas shown to successfully impact on maternal health in developing countries:
- Removing economic barriers to health services;
- Increasing the number of skilled birth attendants - doctors and midwives;
- Providing access to family planning and preventing unsafe abortion.
In Bangladesh, DFID’s efforts to increase use of family planning, prevent unsafe abortion and improve education for girls have contributed to a 40% decline in maternal deaths in the last 15 years.
Maternal deaths in Nepal have declined by at least 20% in the past decade, largely due to DFID support to the Government for the training of skilled birth attendants and providing access to maternity services. A DFID-funded scheme providing cash in hand for pregnant women has also allowed 60,000 additional women to give birth in health facilities in the past year.
However, most of the world’s poorest countries such as Malawi remain seriously off track to meet the global poverty goals of reducing maternal deaths by 75% by 2015.
Following a recent trip to Malawi, Gillian Merron, International Development Minister said. ''High maternal mortality rates are the single most accurate barometer of how weak a health system is in a country.
''That is why DFID has invested £100 million in Malawi’s health system to improve health clinics and address the acute shortage of health workers. In the last year DFID has helped the Malawian Government to ensure that 50,000 more women gave birth in health clinics.
''At the G8 summit in Japan in July, we will call on world leaders to commit to ensuring at least 2.3 health workers per 1,000 people in every country by 2015. This would provide at least 8 out of 10 women with the help of a skilled attendant during birth. As long as more than half a million women die needlessly every year during pregnancy or childbirth, the UK Government will continue to push for international leadership and action on maternal health.''
Notes to editors
- Pregnancy is the main cause of death of girls aged 15-19 in developing countries.
- The global economic loss as a result of mothers and newborns dying in childbirth in developing countries could be as high as £15 billion due to lost workforce.
- Up to 33% of maternal deaths could be avoided if contraception was available.
- Unavailability of safe abortion is responsible for 70,000 maternal deaths a year equivalent to 14% of maternal mortality in the world.
- DFID is the only donor to have a maternal health strategy to achieve the Millennium Development Goal on maternal health.
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