Source: The Observer
Despite global progress to achieve Millennium Development Goal Number 5, which calls for a 75% reduction in maternal mortality ratio by 2015, statistics points to a struggle.

Uganda and Zambia are the first countries to benefit from an America-led global partnership to improve maternal health, writes Racheal Ninsiima.

In a bid to reduce maternal mortality in Africa by at least 30%, the United States government is spearheading a global public-private partnership dubbed ‘Saving Mothers, Giving Life’. The initiative focuses on strengthening district health systems in areas of labour, delivery and the 24-hour postpartum period (when two out of every three maternal deaths and 45% of new born deaths occur).

This partnership includes America’s Global Health Initiative (GHI), Merck for Mothers, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Every Mother Counts and the government of Norway. Lois Quam, the Executive Director of the GHI, revealed during a teleconference that Zambia and Uganda were the first two countries for the operationalisation of this five-year initiative because of their high rates of maternal mortality.

Uganda continues to struggle with high numbers of women who die from pregnancy and birth-related complications of childbirth. It is estimated that more than 6,000 women die during pregnancy or childbirth every year, ranking Uganda 141 out of 172 countries globally. In Zambia, which ranks 143, nearly 3,000 women die every year. The US is contributing $75m (Shs 186bn) to the partnership, which – in Uganda – will focus on the districts of Kabarole, Kibaale, Kamwenge, and Kyenjojo.

“Saving Mothers, Giving Life represents a unique partnership through which the United States Government has enlisted significant support from a range of key players in the global health reduce maternal mortality,” said Daniel Travis, the Public Affairs Officer at the US embassy.

GHI will coordinate programme implementation while Norway will principally lead advocacy efforts. Every Mother Counts (EMC), an advocacy and mobilisation campaign, will raise public awareness, advocate for global maternal health, and initiate fundraising. Among other roles, Merck for Mothers, a 10-year $500m initiative, will guide the strategic direction, support on-the-ground programme implementation and evaluation efforts.

WHO estimates that more than 80% of maternal deaths are caused by complications such as severe bleeding, high blood pressure, obstructed labour and infections. Other causes of maternal mortality are lack of adequate medical personnel, lack of access to healthcare facilities, and lack of transportation, and HIV/Aids. 

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