Women Champions Speak Out on Maternal Health


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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.



Julia Ross

Senior Communications Officer

Join the Conversation

September 20, 2010

We have made significant achievements in this area, but let us not pat ourselves yet. Even the few "lucky" women who make it to hospitals here in Ghana, a significant number either lose their lives or that of their babies due to substandard care even at the hospital. We continue spending money on healthcare, but we are silent on the quality of care that is expected of these professionals, and governments seem either helpless or uninterested in insisting on better quality of care from health professionals.

Could we help willing countries adapt their subvention and pay schemes to reward performance as a means of improving care from some of these professionals who seem to be forgetting their oaths? I have a personal experience that reinforces the huge impact quality of care has on outcomes, facilities and money notwithstanding.