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UNFPA Maternal Health Conferences Wrap Up

Two United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) conferences this week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, gathered “international policymakers, government ministers, and lawmakers” to address the half a million maternal deaths annually, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports. Although the U.N. “hopes to reduce maternal mortality by three quarters between 1990 and 2015,” this Millennium Development Goal target “has seen the least progress in recent years,” the news organization writes.  

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty continues: “Childbirth remains a leading killer across much of the developing world, according to the U.N. Development Program’s data from 2005. Afghanistan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. With 1,800 mothers dying out of every 100,000 births, the rate in Afghanistan is comparable to those in sub-Saharan Africa.” Lynn Freedman of Columbia University’s School of Public Health, who previously advised a U.N. task force on maternal health, said, “On its face, it is not an outrageous goal. … It takes a level of attention to implementation that has not been there, and it takes a level of political commitment and civil society commitment to put all the pieces together to make that happen.”

According to Freedman, five basic complications – “uncontrolled bleeding, infection, the consequences of unsafe abortions, prolonged and obstructed labor, and hypertensive diseases of pregnancy” – are responsible for most maternal deaths in developing countries. The article includes quotes from a UNFPA official and data about maternal mortality in several countries (Hirshman, 10/28).

At the conclusion of a two-day UNFPA gathering Wednesday, “hundreds” of government officials pledged support for “the principles and goals of the landmark International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in 1994, when 179 governments explicitly recognized sexual and reproductive health as a human right,” the U.N. News Centre reports. According to a UNFPA press release, “Participants unanimously adopted the Addis Ababa Statement of Commitment, in which they pledged to exercise their oversight responsibilities to break the silence around gender discrimination and to promote sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.”

At the conference, approximately 400 parliamentarians “committed to supporting accessible and affordable health services that promote family planning, HIV prevention and the health and well-being of women and girls,” the U.N. News Centre writes (10/28).