New Partnership With U.S. and Norwegian Governments and the Private Sector Formed to Save the Lives of Mothers and Their Newborn Children


June 14, 2012 7:08 am ET

Saving Mothers, Giving Life Targets Dramatic Reduction in Maternal Deaths Globally

The global partnership for Saving Mothers, Giving Life – a unique
public-private partnership consisting of founding partners that includes
the United States Government, Merck’s initiative Merck for Mothers,
the Government of Norway, the American College of Obstetricians and
Gynecologists (The College), and Every Mother Counts (EMC) – is being
announced in the United States in conjunction with the Child Survival
Call to Action
event. The partnership aims to aggressively reduce
maternal mortality in places where women are dying at alarming rates
during pregnancy and childbirth. Maternal and child survival are
inextricably linked. As of today, the founding partners have pledged
more than $200 million USD in financial resources and additional in-kind

Saving Mothers, Giving Life is a five-year effort focused on
helping mothers during the most critical period of labor, delivery, and
the first 24 hours that follow birth, when an estimated two-thirds of
maternal deaths and almost half of infant deaths occur. The partnership
will work in countries where maternal mortality rates are
disproportionately high, starting in Uganda and Zambia.

Maternal mortality is one of the oldest and most preventable medical
tragedies, and one that reflects global disparities in healthcare. In
the next decade, it is estimated that nearly three million women may die
from complications due to pregnancy and childbirth. The majority of
these maternal deaths are preventable. In addition, 99% of all maternal
deaths occur in developing countries.

As Secretary Clinton said in her remarks at the Global Health Conference
in Oslo, Norway, “I am very pleased that the United States will be a
part of the Saving Mothers, Giving Life partnership, along with Merck
for Mothers
, the Government of Norway, Every Mother Counts, and the
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. We’re not focusing
on a single intervention, but on strengthening health systems. I think
back to that day when I had my daughter and how fortunate I was. But
surviving childbirth and growing up healthy should not be a matter of
luck or where you live or how much money you have. It should be a fact
for every woman everywhere.”

“A mother’s death is a tragedy because it destroys one of the most
fundamental human connections – the bond between a mother and her child.
Compounding this tragedy is the way this death unravels families and
communities. The effects of a mother’s loss can echo for generations.
Merck is supporting Saving Mothers, Giving Life through our Merck
for Mothers
initiative because we need to make a change,” said
Kenneth C. Frazier, Merck’s chairman and CEO. “We know there are serious
obstacles to overcome, but there is incredible commitment among the
partners who are coming together through the Saving Mothers, Giving
endeavor inspired by a single mission – to save lives.” Working
in close cooperation with national and local governments, the effort
will strengthen district health systems and provide proven,
cost-effective solutions. A rigorous evaluation process will identify
ways to replicate success on a larger scale, both in Africa and beyond.

Saving Mothers, Giving Life will:

Develop quality maternal health services, including appropriate human
resources and safe facilities, through district health networks for
comprehensive, integrated maternal healthcare

Enlist new public and private partners around the world to leverage
expertise and co-invest in maternal healthIncrease awareness and support
among the American public with the goal of saving mothers’ lives around
the world

“Approximately 800 women die in childbirth every day. These tragedies
are both unacceptable and unnecessary. Saving women’s lives requires a
well functioning health service at multiple levels and therefore a
deeper kind of partnership between countries. Saving Mothers, Giving
is a new, catalytic, public-private, ‘north-south’ partnership
– to ensure sustainable results and self-reliance,” said the Minister of
Foreign Affairs of Norway Jonas Gahr Støre.

Countries in sub-Saharan Africa have tragically high rates of maternal
mortality. In Uganda, Saving Mothers, Giving Life will start with
a focus on the districts of Kabarole, Kibaale, Kamwenge, and Kyenjojo.
In Zambia, the endeavor will start with a focus on the districts of
Lundazi, Nyimba, Kalomo, and Mansa.

“This partnership is a wonderful opportunity to dramatically accelerate
progress in preventing maternal deaths and we consider it a real
privilege to do our part,” said Herbert B. Peterson, M.D., chair of The
College’s Global Operations Advisory Group. “We know that deaths from
pregnancy and childbirth can be prevented and, working together, we can
seize this moment and get it done.”

Maternal mortality remains one of the leading causes of death among
women of reproductive age in developing countries. Approximately every
two minutes a woman dies during pregnancy or childbirth. For every woman
who dies in childbirth, at least 20 more suffer injury, infection or

“We each understand that it will take many of us to reduce global
maternal mortality,” said Christy Turlington Burns, founder of Every
Mother Counts. “Coming together in partnership under the Saving
Mothers, Giving Life
initiative we know that together we can
dramatically elevate awareness and inspire action on an issue that
touches us all.”

More than 80% of maternal deaths are caused directly by complications
such as severe bleeding, high blood pressure, obstructed labor and
infections. A shortage of adequately trained healthcare providers, lack
of access to healthcare facilities and necessary medications, and poor
transportation also contribute to maternal mortality. HIV/AIDS is also a
common, indirect cause of death during pregnancy.

The United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) seek to address
the world’s greatest development priorities through time-bound targets.
As stated in the Countdown to 2015 report, “Building a Future for
Women and Children,” released this week, the world has made impressive
progress towards MDG 4, which calls for a two-thirds reduction in child
deaths by 2015, and MDG 5, which calls for a three-quarters reduction in
maternal deaths by 2015. However, despite this progress, the world is
not on pace to meet either MDG 4 or 5, and both maternal and child
health remain inadequately financed.

Saving Mothers, Giving Life builds on the U.S. government’s
longstanding commitment to global health, including PEPFAR and USAID’s
host of maternal and child health programs,” remarked Rajiv Shah,
administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
“We look forward to working with the partners to leverage these and
other platforms to make an accelerated impact on the health of women and
newborns in need.”

The Role of the Partners

About U.S.
Global Health Initiative

U.S. Global Health Initiative (GHI) will provide leadership and
strategic direction to coordinate program implementation, leveraging the
strengths across the U.S. Government, particularly building on the U.S.
Government’s deep, long-standing relationships with partner countries.
Core GHI agencies include the State Department and USAID, the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Office of the Global AIDS
Coordinator, who work in collaboration with other US Government agencies.

About Merck
for Mothers

Merck for Mothers is an initiative of Merck (known as MSD outside
of the United States and Canada), a global healthcare leader working to
help the world be well. Merck for Mothers is a 10-year,
half-billion-dollar effort to create a world where no woman has to die
giving life. The initiative will speed up access to life-saving
solutions for women across the globe, develop new technologies, and
bring the issue of maternal mortality to the forefront of global
consciousness. Merck for Mothers will support Saving Mothers,
Giving Life
by guiding the strategic direction of the initiative,
supporting on-the-ground program implementation and evaluation, working
with partners to raise public awareness, and serving as the Secretariat.

About American
College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College), the
nation’s leading group of physicians providing healthcare for women,
will provide technical and clinical leadership expertise and leverage
its members and other professional associations to support Saving
Mothers, Giving Life

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College), a
501(c)(3) organization, is a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership
organization of approximately 57,000 members, The College strongly
advocates for quality healthcare for women, maintains the highest
standards of clinical practice and continuing education of its members,
promotes patient education, and increases awareness among its members
and the public of the changing issues facing women’s healthcare.

About Every
Mother Counts

Every Mother Counts (EMC), an advocacy and mobilization campaign to
increase education and support for maternal mortality reduction
globally, will raise public awareness, advocate for global maternal
health, and initiate fundraising efforts.

EMC, a 501(c)(3) organization, seeks to engage new audiences to better
understand the challenges and the solutions while encouraging them to
take action to improve the lives of girls and women worldwide.

About The
Government of Norway

The Government of Norway is improving maternal health, a cornerstone of
Norway’s international development policy. Norway will provide
co-leadership globally, including by mobilizing international support
through partnerships with African leaders and with other donor
governments as well as by drawing on related global and regional
initiatives such as the UN Secretary-General’s “Every Woman, Every
Child.” The Government of Norway will – as a Founding Participant in the Saving
Mothers, Giving Life
partnership – support program implementation
with a particular focus on promoting sustainability.

To learn more, visit

Merck for Mothers,
Kelley Dougherty, 267-664-8679,
Global Health Initiative,
Chris Dorval, 202-647-3996,
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists,
Greg Phillips, 202-484-3321,
Every Mother Counts,
Debra Duffy, 212-685-4300,
Media Office, The Norwegian Government Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
+47 23950002,

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