Maternal and newborn mortality are the starkest indicators of the difference between developed and developing countries. A staggering 98% of maternal and newborn deaths occur in the developing world.
Three million newborn babies, and between 250,000 and 343,000 women, die each year in pregnancy and childbirth or soon afterwards. The majority of these deaths are in Africa and South Asia, and this is where Women and Children First focuses its work.
Behind these statistics are many social, cultural, political and economic factors but most of these deaths can be prevented if women have access to essential maternity and basic health-care services.
Equitable access to health care is the ultimate aim of every country, however in remote areas of Africa and South Asia, thousands of women and babies will die before this is achieved. Building health system infrastructures and staffing health centres in rural areas is particularly difficult. Remote communities will never be able to access much needed routine healthcare without the introduction of community based interventions.
Women and Children First and its partners currently focus upon mobilising communities in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Malawi and Uganda to reduce maternal and newborn mortality rates through the introduction of cost-effective, sustainable community based interventions. Previous programmes were delivered in India and Nepal.
The World Health Organisation has issued an official recommendation about the participatory women’s groups approach Woman and Children First promotes, particularly in rural settings where there is little access to health services.
WHO has recognised that participatory women's groups can reduce maternal deaths by up to 49% and neonatal deaths by over a third, providing at least 30% of pregnant women in a community is able to access a women’s group.