In the 1990s, a series of global conferences organised by the United Nations identified maternal mortality and morbidity as an urgent public health priority, and mobilised international commitment to address the problem. Governments from around the world pledged to ensure access to a range of high-quality, affordable reproductive health services, including safe motherhood and family planning, particularly to vulnerable and underserved populations.

At the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, governments agreed to cut the number of maternal deaths by half by the year 2000, and in half again by 2015. In 1995, the Fourth World Conference on Women (FWCW) in Beijing gave substantial attention to maternal mortality and reiterated the commitments made at the ICPD.

Specifically, governments around the world have agreed to:

  • Develop a comprehensive national strategy to ensure universal access to all individuals and couples of appropriate ages throughout the life cycle to a full range of high quality, affordable sexual and reproductive health services, which includes family planning, through the primary health care system as soon as possible, and no later than the year 2015, with particular attention to maternal and emergency obstetric care, especially in underserved areas. [Emphasis added]
  • Establish or strengthen integrated safe motherhood programs, within the context of primary health care, with goals and target dates to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity by one half of 1990 levels by the year 2000, and by a further one half by 2015. [Emphasis added]

These services should include:

  • Education on safe motherhood.
  • Promotion of maternal nutrition.
  • Provision of micronutrient supplementation and tetanus toxoid, where appropriate.
  • Prenatal care and counselling.
  • Adequate delivery assistance, in all cases by a skilled person, without excessive. recourse to caesarean sections.
  • Care for obstetric emergencies, including referral for pregnancy, childbirth, sperm donation and abortion complications.
  • Postnatal care.
  • Abortion-related care, including compassionate counselling and reliable information for women who have unwanted pregnancies, humane counselling and treatment for women who have had recourse to abortion, and safe abortion where not against the law.
  • Family planning counselling, information and services, and promotion of longer intervals between births.
  • Neonatal care, including exclusive breast-feeding for six months.

In 2000, the United Nations outlined specific international development goals with the aim of reducing poverty. These goals build upon the agreements and commitments made by governments at the series of world conferences held in the 1990s (e.g. ICPD, FWCW). Among the international development goals set by the United Nations is a reduction of maternal mortality ratios by three-quarters by the year 2015; providing access to reproductive health services by 2015; and reducing infant and child mortality rates by two-thirds by 2015. For more information on the international development goals.

In September 2000, 189 countries at the UN Millennium General Assembly in New York endorsed a series of Millennium Development Goals that aim to reduce poverty worldwide. One of the Millennium Development Goals is the reduction of maternal mortality by 75 percent between 1990 and 2015. For more information on the Millennium Development Goals.

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