U.S. Maternal Health Program: Marks 20 Years of Support to Mothers and Childbearing Women

For Immediate Release

Friday, May 8, 2009
USAID Press Office
202-712-4320

WASHINGTON, D.C. - On Mother's Day, May 10th, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will mark 20 years of work to research, prevent and treat the major causes of maternal death and disability in high burden countries.

"Women give and protect life, nurture body and mind, and sustain communities large and small," said Gloria Steele, Acting Assistant Administrator for Global Health. "Women make extraordinary contributions as caregivers and caretakers, as well as breadwinners and bread-makers. By averting maternal death and disability that cost families and communities so much, we can improve the productive capacity of women in their own nations."

Every year, more than half a million women die and many more suffer complications from childbirth. Women in sub-Saharan Africa die in childbirth at a rate that is more than 150 times greater than in the United States. USAID maternal health programs have helped to reduce under-5 mortality in almost 30 countries and maternal mortality in 10 countries within a decade.

Strengthening the capacity and number of skilled birth attendants; reducing financial barriers to access care; and improving health information systems have helped to reduce maternal and newborn deaths dramatically.

USAID has sharpened its focus on a set of interventions targeting specific complications of pregnancy and birth that lead to high mortality rates, including excessive bleeding, hypertension, infections, anemia, and prolonged labor. These conditions alone account for two-thirds of maternal deaths in the developing world.

Since 2004 USAID has also supported a program to repair obstetric fistula, a vaginal injury caused by obstructed labor that results in chronic incontinence. More than 10,000 women in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have received surgery to repair this devastating injury.

These efforts to improve maternal health are complemented by programs that address the poverty and hardships still facing mothers and their families in many countries. Among those efforts are micro-credit programs that provide access to money that can be used to lift families out of poverty; girls' education programs to improve the health and prosperity of coming generations; water and sanitation programs that prevent disease; and emergency relief and food assistance following disasters.

For more information about USAID and its maternal and child health programs, visit www.usaid.gov.

Last updated: May 16, 2012

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