Reflection on Strategies Toward Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality

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By: Betsy McCallon, Executive Director, White Ribbon Alliance

I am very excited to announce the launch of Strategies Toward Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality (EPMM), an effort that was led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and to which White Ribbon Alliance (WRA), MHTF, UNICEF, UNFPA, USAID, Family Care International and the Maternal Child Survival Program (MCSP) contributed. This is an important milestone in the fight against maternal mortality and for improved health and we commend WHO for taking the initiative to bring our voices, research, and evidence together to push for global action. EPMM will be an important cornerstone of the UN Secretary General’s Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health and will ensure that these important issues are prioritized in the post-2015 development agenda. EPMM calls for strong integration across reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health efforts, while providing a deeper look at issues specific to maternal health.

WRA endorses the proposed targets and strategies toward ending preventable maternal and newborn mortality that emphasize on availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of services, as well as human rights principles such as participation, information and accountability. WRA recommended that the targets and strategies must be accompanied by financed implication plans with strong political leadership at the national level.

Another important aspect of EPMM is the emphasis on human rights-based approach to healthcare. The delivery of maternal and newborn health services must be within the context of a human rights-based approach to healthcare, including equity and gender equality. This requires systematic integration of human rights into the provision of maternal and newborn health services. WRA underscores the need for policies and laws that uphold human rights to ensure the highest quality of health services, and mechanisms for redress to ensure the respect for human rights occur.

Furthermore, health systems and services must be responsive to local realities and driven by women’s choices, experiences and perceptions of quality. This requires strong country ownership and leadership at both national and sub-national levels. WRA emphasizes the need to put mechanisms in place to ensure civil society and communities, particularly women, are meaningfully engaged to participate and monitor service delivery.

WRA is pleased that quality of care is addressed in the EPMM strategy. We are calling for a stronger focus on the quality of maternal and newborn care, particularly the provision of respectful maternity care, through the implementation of national level participatory accountability mechanisms that take into account women’s experiences and perceptions.

Finally, WRA is proud to see that EPMM includes a strong emphasis on accountability. Citizens and civil society must be engaged and involved in the efforts to improve reproductive, maternal and newborn health in their countries. To achieve this, governments must implement accountability systems that both monitor and drive the delivery of the promises they have made concerning women’s and children’s health. These systems will only be effective if they include the direct engagement of citizens, and governments are responsive to the opinions and ideas expressed by their citizens.

It is widely recognized that the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals will only be successful if there is ownership at the national level and that targets and plans are ‘domesticated.’ EPMM will serve as a useful tool in the important consultations and planning in the coming months. White Ribbon Alliance looks forward to participating in these discussions and representing the voice of the citizens.


White Ribbon Alliance (WRA) was formed over a decade ago to give a voice to the women at risk of dying in childbirth. Our mission is to inspire and convene advocates who campaign to uphold the right of all women to be safe and healthy before, during and after childbirth. We help citizens recognize their rights and catalyze a global movement for safe motherhood for every woman, everywhere.