Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Most of these deaths are preventable. For more mothers and babies to survive, women must have access to quality healthcare throughout pregnancy, labour and during the postnatal period.

Our take on the issue

Each year in sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 200,000 women and one million newborn babies die during pregnancy and childbirth. These lives can be saved if women have access to quality, respectful care during pregnancy.

Access to antenatal care (ANC) is critical to identifying risks to the health of mothers and babies. Three quarters of pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa experience one ANC visit, but in 2017 only 42% of women in the region attended ANC four times or more – which is well below the World Health Organisation's (WHO) target of eight ANC visits.

In 2017 only 54% of women delivered their babies in a hospital or clinic. There are diverse and complex reasons for this. Women may lack information about pregnancy risk factors. They are also less likely to access facilities that they know lack equipment, drugs, staff that would provide quality care. Families may not be able to afford to pay healthcare costs and travel, and road access to facilities may be poor.

Healthy women are more able to work and earn money, and to care for their children. What’s more, healthy children achieve more at school and grow to be productive adults.

Sustainable Development Goal 3.1 (SDG3.1) sets the target to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. National targets, directly relating to the level of economic development of individual developing countries, have also been set.

What mamaye is doing

MamaYe builds the capacity of communities, health workers and planners to increase awareness about the quality services they need. That way, they can effectively demand and plan for quality, people-centred services around pregnancy and childbirth.

In Ethiopia, under Evidence-For-Action (E4A), we are supporting the Ministry of Health to ensure evidence from the most recent Emergency and Obstetric Care Assessment (2016) is used to inform resource and planning decisions.

In Nigeria, we support state-led accountability mechanism to review maternal and newborn health indicators, sharing findings via scorecards, which allows activists and partners to take action to improve quality of care.

In Malawi, we have worked with the Malawi Blood Transfusion Service to challenge the apathy around maternal mortality, supporting communities to show their commitment to saving lives and to ‘give blood to save a mama’. As a result, community blood donation has become integrated into Malawi’s blood collection policy.

It is important that we mobilise political support, provide leadership in strategic partnerships that will accelerate progress in reducing maternal and child mortality […].
Mrs Lordina Dramani Mahama,
(Former) First Lady Ghana