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British PM Calls For G8, G20 To Reduce Maternal Mortality, Announces New Health Worker Training Fund

In a Guardian opinion piece, published on Thursday, British Prime Minister David Cameron says G8 and G20 nations should reduce maternal mortality in developing countries and set “‘an ambitious target’ of saving three million more lives by 2015,” the Guardian reports (Watt, 6/3).

In the piece, Cameron announces the creation of a new 5 million pound or $7.3 million fund “to help [British] midwives and health workers share their skills with birth attendants, nurses and doctors in the world’s poorest countries.” According to Cameron, the fund will also be used to enhance collaboration between Britain’s National Health Service and other health systems, as well as to share innovations in health technology.

Cameron describes the “shocking and shameful” state of maternal health in the developing world, noting that “pregnancy is a life-threatening condition” in “many of the poorest countries.” Ten years ago, “the world set a target of reducing maternal mortality by 75% by 2015. Yet once again, for all the talk of development goals, little has changed. Levels of maternal mortality in many regions have barely fallen in 20 years,” he writes.

“People in developed countries are fed up with hearing grand promises from political leaders which are never fulfilled. … The answer is not to pull back: even in these difficult times we will meet our commitment to increase spending on aid to 0.7% of gross national income from 2013. But if we’re asking the country to give more, it’s our responsibility to make sure we get more for it.” Cameron discusses plans “to bring greater transparency and accountability to overseas aid” and the creation of “an independent aid watchdog to make sure development projects pass the most crucial test: how many lives were saved or improved?” (6/3).

The Guardian reports that Cameron on Thursday met with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss the Millennium Development Goals ahead of a summit in September (6/3).

Also on Thursday, Supermodel Christy Turlington Burns “praised Canada’s plan to put maternal health on the agenda for the upcoming G8 summit” at a screening of her maternal health documentary for members of parliament in Ottawa, CBC News reports.

“Canada has taken an amazing leadership position by having maternal and child health on the agenda for the G8,” Turlington Burns said. “This billion dollars could be spent very well, and if we’re interested in saving lives, we’re talking about doing whatever we can do to prevent unnecessary deaths,” she said, adding that a “comprehensive package” of interventions should be offered (6/3).

“There’s room for the various countries to contribute where they’re able,” she said, the Toronto Sun reports. “However, it’s also important to acknowledge that 13% of all maternal deaths come from unsafe abortion. Being a public health student, I can’t look away from that,” Turlington Burns added (Payton, 6/3).  

VOA News, TIME Examine Maternal Health

Ahead of Women Deliver, which begins in Washington, D.C., on Monday, VOA News examines maternal and child mortality in Afghanistan. The article features analysis from Qudratullah Mojadidi, an Afghan doctor who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology in Jacksonville, Florida. Mojadidi “travels to Afghanistan to provide his services to expecting mothers and children at the CURE International medical facility,” according to VOA News.

“The neonatal mortality – neonatal mortality means from the birth to the first four weeks of life – is 16 percent,” Mojadidi said, adding that it is a “devastating figure.” He said, “Even if you go very conservative and divide that by half, still it is just about the highest in the world.” Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington is also quoted (Salam, 6/3).

In related news, TIME examines maternal mortality worldwide. “While universally recognized as a milestone of womanhood, pregnancy and childbirth remain among the leading causes of death of women worldwide; every day, one woman per minute dies while giving birth or soon after. An additional 10 million to 15 million women suffer complications or injuries resulting from the act of giving life,” the magazine writes, noting global efforts to reduce maternal deaths, including effective programs in Peru and India (Park, 6/14).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.