Earlier today, the bank hosted a film preview and panel discussion on maternal health and progress toward Millennium Development Goal 5 , which focuses on reducing maternal deaths.
The film clip shown—part of a moving documentary titled “No Woman, No Cry ”, directed by Christy Turlington Burns —tells the story of a pregnant Tanzanian woman facing a difficult delivery in a remote village. The local clinic is understaffed and ill-equipped for complicated cases, and finding transport to the nearest hospital is difficult and expensive.
Burns’ work and the issues it addresses launched a lively exchange among four women who have advocated for greater investment in maternal and child health—World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Afghan Minister of Health Suraya Dalil; United Nations Population Fund Executive Director Purnima Mane; and Rep. Nita Lowey, Chair, Foreign Operations Subcommittee, U.S. House of Representatives.
Each of the panelists emphasized the need for results. In our video of the event, above, Okonjo-Iweala notes Bank-financed programs have provided antenatal care for 2 million women over the last decade. Minister Dalil says Afghanistan had 400 midwives 9 years ago; today, the country has 2,500 trained midwives, many deployed in rural areas.
Today’s panel was a relevant lead-in to next week’s U.N. Summit on the Millennium Development Goals , where maternal health will be at the forefront of discussions as world leaders measure their progress against the MDGs.
Work toward MDG 5 has shown mixed progress in much of the world. A recent WHO-UNICEF-UNFPA-World Bank report  found that the number of women dying due to pregnancy and childbirth-related complications dropped by one-third from 1990 to 2008. But health advocates say much more needs to be done – 1,000 women continue to die every day.