After noting recently the appalling level of maternal mortality in the developing world (1) some good news was welcome. This August came a long term meta-analysis of global maternal mortality statistics that showed a nearly 30% drop over the past two decades. (2) The UN annual report likewise found the mortality rate had fallen from 500,000 to 350,000 maternal deaths per annum. (3) Both surveys found these reductions were due to multi-level interventions, including addressing social attitudes, educating and empowering women and girls, good obstetric and midwifery care, and better birth spacing.
This coincided with a major consultation by the UK Department for International Development on their new strategy for maternal health. DFID states it wants to support evidence based, multi-level interventions, (4) giving prominence to the provision of 'safe abortion' as an effective intervention. However, the two metasurveys indicated that of all the interventions, this had the least impact – in part at least because addressing the other issues minimises the demand for abortion. DFID have been criticised for tying overseas aid to legalised abortion for ideological reasons. (5)
Another major lacuna is the role of religion. Historically DFID has been criticised for marginalising faith, (6) an issue they have sought to rectify. (7) However their Western secular perspectives fail to understand that for most developing world communities, faith shapes values and choices as much as, or more than, poverty. Only by working from within religious traditions (in particular with faith based organisations) can we transform attitudes and values that devalue women and set their health needs low.
CMF has made a detailed submission challenging DFID on these two issues. (8) Drafted by obstetricians, midwives and paediatricians with developing world experience, it shows that Christian health professionals have a great deal to contribute to global health policy, giving a voice to the voiceless and standing up for the needs of the poor. (9)