U.S. “Saving Mothers, Giving Life” Decreases Maternal Deaths by 35 Percent

Lusaka. May 7, 2014.

Lusaka – United States and Zambian leadership of “Saving Mothers, Giving Life,” an initiative committed to saving women’s lives from complications during pregnancy and childbirth in sub-Saharan Africa, reported a 35 percent decrease in maternal deaths in participating Zambian facilities during the first 12 months of the program. The news was announced by the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health of Zambia and the U.S. government partners from Zambia during the joint launch of the second phase of Saving Mothers, Giving Life. U.S. government partners in the initiative include the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Peace Corps, and U.S. Department of Defense.

Saving Mothers, Giving Life is a public-private partnership between the U.S. government with funding made available from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), USAID, and U.S. CDC; the Norwegian government; the Swedish government through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA); and private partners Merck for Mothers, Every Mother Counts, Project Cure, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In collaboration with Saving Mothers, Giving Life, the Zambian government, through the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health and the Ministry of Health, is taking a leadership role in helping Zambia achieve its “Roadmap to Addressing Maternal Mortality.”

“With leadership from our Zambian counterparts, together, through Saving Mothers, Giving Life, we are strengthening health systems in Zambia – this is the critical element that has allowed us to achieve such remarkable results,” said Robert Clay, USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for Global Health. “By strengthening these systems, we are changing the prevailing dynamic and reducing the possibility that women will die during childbirth in Zambia.”

Phase One of Saving Mothers, Giving Life took place in Nyimba, Lundazi, Kalomo, and Mansa districts from May 2012 – June 2013. In close partnership with the Zambian government, Saving Mothers, Giving Life focused on putting life-saving interventions in place that targeted the three major delays that put mothers and newborns’ lives at risk: the delays in seeking, reaching, and receiving high-quality care.

The Saving Mothers, Giving Life-supported districts achieved remarkable results, including a 35 percent decrease in maternal deaths within health facilities (including an 87 percent reduction in deaths from obstructed labor and uterine rupture and 30 percent reduction from obstetric hemorrhage); 35 percent increase in women delivering in facilities with skilled birth attendants; 22 percent increase in women with maternal complications receiving appropriate care; 15 percent increase in women who received necessary Cesarean sections; 18 percent increase in HIV positive pregnant women receiving treatment; 29 percent increase in newborn prophylaxis for HIV, preventing transmission of HIV from mother to child; and a reduction in stock-outs of magnesium sulfate (an essential drug used during seizures and hypertension in pregnancy) from 88 percent of facilities to only 23 percent of facilities.

“In the first year of Saving Mothers, Giving Life, interventions like health worker training and mentoring, infrastructure improvements, birth planning with families, and linkages to transportation helped save women’s lives,” said Professor Elwyn Chomba, Permanent Secretary of the Zambia Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health. “The pace and scale of this work also helped pave the way towards Zambia’s goals to reduce maternal mortality.”

Under the leadership of the Zambian government, Phase Two of Saving Mothers, Giving Life will expand into the Chipata, Choma, Kabwe, Lunga, Mambwe, Pemba, Petauke, Samfya, Sinda, and Vubwe districts. Building on the success of Phase One, Phase Two will also focus on the protection of newborn lives, support for mothers through family planning services and early antenatal care, and leverage of other donors around the Saving Mothers, Giving Life model to address maternal mortality.

Speaking at a Saving Mothers, Giving Life event in Washington, D.C., USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah said, “When you save the life of a mother you create ripples of change that echo outward, transforming not only the health of her family and the strength of her community, but also the stability and economic prosperity of her society.”