UK Pledges £100 million to UNFPA
18th October 2007
Maternal deaths and unwanted pregnancies can be cut dramatically in countries around the globe after the British Government today pledged £100 million to UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, to achieve universal access to reproductive health.
"Maternal health can be improved through strengthened political commitment and the dedication of increased resources. Life or death is a political decision," said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA Executive Director. "The United Kingdom´s generous investment in women will enable UNFPA to provide urgent, coordinated and sustained action to save mothers´ lives. There can be no safe future without safe motherhood -- no woman should die giving life."
The £100 million over five years was announced today by Douglas Alexander, the United Kingdom´s Secretary of State for International Development, who called on leaders of the world´s poorest countries, especially in Africa, to make women´s health a priority on the opening day of Women Deliver, a three-day global conference aimed to reduce maternal deaths.
"The death of a mother deprives a child, a family, a community and ultimately a country of one of its most valuable sources of health, happiness and prosperity," said Mr. Alexander in his address to delegates at the conference. "Every minute a woman dies from complications during pregnancy or childbirth. More than 10 million women have died in the last 20 years. This is a tragedy but so is the fact that these deaths could have been prevented."
To address this challenge, the United Nations General Assembly formally included, earlier this month, a new target to achieve universal access to reproductive health in the monitoring and reporting framework of Millennium Development Goal 5. This goal calls for the improvement of maternal health, including the reduction of maternal mortality ratio by three quarters by 2015.
Although progress has been made in such countries as Egypt, Sri Lanka and Thailand, maternal deaths remain high, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. A woman in Africa faces a 1 in 26 lifetime risk of maternal death compared to 1 in 8,200 in the United Kingdom.
An estimated 720,000 unwanted pregnancies could be averted, 300,000 abortions could be prevented and the lives of 1,600 mothers and 22,000 infants could be saved for every £1 million invested in family planning, according to Mr. Alexander.
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October 18 2007, UNFPA