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ss triple helix - Christmas 2010,  DFID and maternal health

DFID and maternal health

Multi-level interventions and recognising faith are the real answers.

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)

  1. 1 Edwards C. MDG 5 - saving the lives of mothers. Triple Helix Spring 2010:16-17
  2. Hogan MC et al. Maternal Mortality for 181 Countries 1980-2008: a systematic analysis of progress towards Millennium Development Goal 5. Lancet 2010:375:1609-23
  3. 3 Trends in maternal mortality: 1990 to 2008 - Estimates developed by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and The World Bank (2010). ISBN: 978 92 4 150026 5
  4. 4 Why is reproductive, maternal and newborn health important? DFID Consultation Briefing
  5. 5 Government accused of tying foreign aid to abortion. The Christian Institute, 28 October 2010
  6. 6 DFID, faith and AIDS: A Review for the Update of Taking Action; UK Consortium for AIDS and International Development Faith Working Group, Nigel Taylor 2007
  7. 7 Archbishop Responds To DFID White Paper. New Africa Analysis, 20 July 2009
  8. 8 CMF Submission to the DFID Consultation on Maternal Health Strategy: 'Choice for women: wanted pregnancies, safe births' October 2010
  9. 9 Isaiah 1:17
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