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Turning the Millennium Goals Into Reality: Goal 5 – Improve Maternal Health

Family Care International works with women to ensure maternal health.

In the fifth blog post in our series about the UN’s Millennium Development Goals we focus on Millennium Goal 5: Improve maternal health. The UN goal is to ensure that by 2015 there is universal access to reproductive healthcare and to reduce by three quarters the number of women dying from childbirth by 2015.

In Sub Saharan Africa about one in 150 women die in child birth which is about 40 times higher than in the developed world. Although the number of deaths in Sub Saharan Africa has declined 28 percent from 1990 to 2008, it is still below the 34 percent decline found for all developing regions.

Many women do not use contraception either because the healthcare system is poorly funded, it violates their religious beliefs, or their husbands are opposed to it. This leads to an increase in high-risk pregnancies among very young women. There is also a severe shortage of trained healthcare workers available during deliveries who can prevent complications like obstetric hemorrhaging–the leading cause of death. Women who receive healthcare during pregnancy are much less likely to experience complications when giving birth. Twenty-two percent of women in Sub Saharan Africa never see a healthcare professional, usually because they live in rural areas or their local healthcare center is understaffed. Other women die indirectly as a result of Malaria and HIV.

Aid for Africa member Family Care International was the first international organization  to place maternal health at the center of its mission. Working in Burkina Faso, Kenya, and Mali, Family Care staff  help sensitize community leaders to maternal healthcare needs and enlist their support in addressing equipment and personnel shortages at local healthcare centers. To protect young people from HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, the organization produces educational materials to help them make healthy choices.  For unmarried women they offer reproductive health services that may not be available to them. Family Care International  also helps ensure access to new drugs and technologies such as Misoprostol – an effective treatment for postpartum hemorrhaging –which can be given by mouth and serve as an alternative when intravenous equipment and refrigeration are not available.