Leaders in Maternal Health Comment on the New Maternal Mortality Estimates: Ann Starrs

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By: Ann Starrs, President and Co-Founder, Family Care International

The Maternal Health Task Force is looking to those working in maternal health for their comments on the recent findings published in the Lancet that suggest a dramatic reduction in global maternal mortality.

Ann shares her thoughts on the new maternal mortality estimates:

Family Care International, and the entire maternal health community, enthusiastically welcomes this apparent confirmation that efforts to reduce maternal mortality are paying off, and that the number of maternal deaths globally is finally beginning to come down. The UN is also developing revised estimates of maternal mortality which will be available in time for the Women Deliver conference in June.  It is expected that the UN figures, like the estimates published in The Lancet, will find a significant reduction in global maternal mortality. Maternal deaths are notoriously difficult to count — because so many women die in rural areas, in isolated communities, in ill-equipped and understaffed health clinics, and in the homes of poor families. We must now place a new emphasis on collecting and analyzing community-level data, so that national and global figures accurately reflect actual deaths, and real progress, at the local level.

Whether the number of women who will die this year in pregnancy and childbirth is 350,000,  450,000,  or 550,000, the number is far too high. Whether a woman dies every minute or every minute and a half, it happens far too often. Each one of these numbers represents an individual woman — and her death destroys a life, devastates a family, and weakens a community. Virtually every one of these deaths is preventable, and it is time for the world to fully commit to preventing them. No woman should die giving life.

These new figures compel policymakers to find the political courage, and to make the necessary financial investments, to expand and intensify national and local strategies that are proven to save lives and improve maternal health. The findings in the Lancet paper, and in other recent studies, that HIV is a major factor in Africa’s persistently high maternal mortality highlight the critical need to address maternal health and HIV/AIDS in an integrated fashion. Now is the time to translate these exciting indications of global progress into greater commitments, proven policies, and concrete action to save women’s lives.

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