Almost every two minutes, a woman dies from preventable causes during pregnancy or childbirth. Delays in seeking care, reaching care and receiving care are the primary causes of neonatal and maternal mortalities in Africa. Saving Mothers, Giving Life is a public-private partnership launched by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2012 as a five-year initiative to reduce avoidable maternal mortalities in Africa.
For every 1.6 million annual births in Uganda, almost 6,000 women and 34,000 newborns do not survive. In fact, approximately one in 44 Ugandan women will die due to maternal-related complications. These dangers are comparably high in Zambia and Nigeria, as well as in other parts of Africa.
Saving Mothers, Giving Life (SMGL), in coordination with the Ugandan and Zambian governments, addresses this problem by improving supply systems and better equipping health care facilities, providing training to enhance the quality of delivery and emergency response services, mobilizing communities to demand better delivery and family planning services and advancing communication and transportation systems which render health care facilities more accessible.
Since SMGL’s inception, Ugandan institutional maternal mortalities have decreased by 45 percent, and the number of cesarean sections has increased by 31 percent. Stillborn and perinatal mortality rates are down 5 percent, while neonatal mortalities have dropped 6 percent. Similar dramatic success has been recorded in Zambia.
SMGL’s remaining two-and-a-half years will be dedicated to reducing maternal and infant mortalities in Nigeria, a nation which alone accounts for 25 percent of newborn deaths and 14 percent of maternal deaths worldwide. USAID recently pledged $18 million to SMGL toward efforts in Nigeria’s Cross River State.
Hopefully, the rapid results that Uganda and Zambia experienced following SMGL involvement indicate the kind of progress the Cross River State can anticipate over the next two years. With the continued dedication of initiatives like SMGL, it seems likely that maternal mortalities in Africa will become increasingly rare.
– Robin Lee