Mothers Matter: Merlin launches report on maternal health

To mark International Day of the Midwife on May 5, Merlin is launching All Mothers Matter a report outlining why, without urgent investment in health workers in fragile states, the Millennium Development Goal for maternal health will not be reached.

50 per cent of women who die in childbirth every year live in countries caught up in or emerging from crisis.

Yet evidence is clear: 75 per cent of lives could be saved if women had access to a skilled birth attendant or emergency obstetric care. With less than one health worker per 1,000 people, fragile states simply do not have the health workforce or services in place.

Carolyn Miller, Merlin’s Chief Executive comments:

‘Midwives are at the heart of maternal survival. Fragile states carry the greatest burden of maternal deaths – and have the lowest numbers of health workers – yet receive insufficient Overseas Development Aid. We cannot hope to meet global maternal health goals if we don’t reallocate our focus, and funding, to countries in crisis.’

In 2007, fragile states received just 38.4 per cent of Overseas Development Aid despite suffering the highest levels of maternal mortality. All Mothers Matter addresses this disparity calling for targeted investment of £2.4bn for health in fragile states, an investment which would ensure countries in crisis are back on track to meet Millennium Development Goal number 5 to reduce death in childbirth by three quarters.

Working out at £2.71 per person per year, this additional funding re-allocated from international budgets and into fragile states, could double the health workforce, including rapid scale up of midwifery training to ensure there is one skilled birth attendant for every 175 women. It would also provide all the medical supplies and drugs needed plus incentives for staff working in underserved and rural areas.

Carolyn Miller also said:

‘It is more important than ever to be effective and targeted with aid. Maternal deaths lead to global productivity losses of $7.5billion each year. Reallocating aid to fragile states will not only save hundreds of thousands of lives, it makes clear financial sense.’

All Mothers Matters advocates for an overhaul of how health is currently funded to ensure maternal mortality is tackled effectively. Currently huge amounts of aid are spent tackling diseases such as malaria and TB in isolation; yet such diseases, which contribute to high levels of maternal mortality, cannot be prevented, treated or cured without sufficient numbers of trained health workers. Also such aid loses 40% of its value thanks to donor conditions.

The report prioritises investment in health systems calling for 50 per cent of all global health funding to be channelled into strengthening health systems, with 25 per cent of that to be used to train and retain health workers. Investing in health systems would help deliver regular staff salaries, training, equipment and incentives for health workers, ultimately building the skills base needed to stop mothers dying needlessly in childbirth.

Mama Zeena, a Training Coordinator at Merlin’s midwifery school in Zwedru, Liberia is in the UK to launch the report. She commented:

‘You cannot tackle maternal mortality in isolation’ you need sustained investment in a functioning workforce. You need more midwives. All women should be able to see a trained midwife and get help when they need it, regardless of where they live. A mother should not have to die.’

Read All Mothers Matter


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