While a 45 percent reduction in maternal death has occurred since 1990, complications during pregnancy and childbirth continue to kill more than 300,000 women annually in the developing world. The vast majority of these deaths are preventable through known techniques and interventions. To achieve substantial reduction in maternal deaths, we must reach the women living along the “last mile”—those most difficult to reach. We must maintain and expand efforts to strengthen health systems, while steadfastly increasing the numbers of well-trained health care providers.

Even more sobering, the loss of newborns far exceeds maternal deaths—more than 3.3 million babies die within the first 4 weeks of life. We know that the risk of injury or death to mother and child significantly decreases when a skilled provider is present to help a woman give birth.

 
 

Jhpiego leads the global maternal health effort by working from Afghanistan to Zambia to prepare midwives, nurses and doctors to skillfully manage complications that arise during pregnancy or childbirth. In 2016, 2.1 million births were assisted by a skilled nurse or midwife through Jhpiego support. Whether in Abidjan or Jakarta, Karachi or Maputo, a health care provider who knows the danger signs—and has the skills to respond appropriately—means the difference between life and death for a woman and her baby.

And when a hospital is several hours away by donkey cart or on foot over mountain roads, the presence of a skilled midwife or nurse at the local health center is even more imperative.