FIGO CONGRESS NEWS: How to make a difference in maternal and newborn health outcomes

Rome, October 11th, 2012 – The Millennium Development Goal 5, targeting the “improvement of maternal health”, is one of the eight set by the United Nations in 1990 - to achieve by 2015 -  that has made some progress, albeit slow. In 2010, the UN Secretary-General launched the ‘Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health’ to mobilise commitments by governments and civil society organisations to accelerate progress towards it.

“FIGO, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, well in advance to Mr Ban Ki-moon’s avowal, set against this backdrop the Saving Mothers and Newborns Initiative, which resulted in great challenges and opportunities for 10 low-and middle-resource countries in their quest to make a tangible difference in the reduction of maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality,” said Dr André Lalonde, Chair of the FIGO Committee for Safe Motherhood and Newborn Health, presenting the results of the project,  funded by FIGO and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, at the FIGO2012 World Congress in Rome, Italy.

“Between 2006 and 2011 we worked with the associations of obstetricians, gynecologists and midwives of Haiti, Kenya, Kosovo, Moldova, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Uganda, Ukraine and Uruguay, with contributions from professional associations in high-resource countries through a structured north-south mentoring programme,” he explained.

Each national project was indeed unique, focused on identified needs within the country and resulted in varied approaches and targets, ranging from clinical training through to legislative and policy change. “Significant results were achieved and led to direct improvements to maternal and newborn health outcomes. One of the most notable was the provision of clinical training to more than 2,000 health professionals, including traditional birth attendants, midwives, doctors, and obstetricians,” Dr Lalonde continued.

“As concrete examples: the Haiti project responded to the humanitarian disaster following the 2010 earthquake, through making our maternity centre one of the few in Port au Prince able to offer essential obstetrical care, thus preventing hundreds of maternal deaths; the Uruguay project - how to manage unsafe abortion in a country with very restrictive laws - set a model for many countries,” he concluded.

Unsafe abortion is a major cause of maternal mortality and morbidity. Problems associated with haemorrhage, hospital admission, pelvic infection, and subfertility can be avoided by safe abortion services. Provision of safe abortion services within the legal framework is behind another FIGO project initiated in 2008: the ‘Prevention of Unsafe Abortion Initiative’.

“The project, financially supported by an anonymous donor, involves 44 countries worldwide and is based on action plans - set on the bases of a preliminary situational analysis country by country - adopted as a country commitment by the government and the civil society,” Professor Anibal Faúndes, Chair of the FIGO Working Group for the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion, said.

The plans include all or some of the four levels of prevention: primary, to reduce unintended pregnancies and abortions; secondary, to make unavoidable abortion safer; tertiary, for timely and correct treatment of abortion complications; and quaternary, to reduce its repetition.

“To date most participating countries have achieved great progress, but mostly have understood and adopted the concept that abortion is a problem that cannot be ignored for its public health significance and its meaning to women’s lives, and consequently action needs to be taken to reduce its number and consequences. But this task is not an easy one and cannot be achieved in a short period of time. We are committed to continue working for the foreseeable future and warmly welcome the collaboration of international agencies and NGOs, most of whom are already contributing to the implementation of the project in the different countries,” Professor Faúndes ended.

For further information, please contact:

Diego Freri
FIGO2012 Press Office
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Maria D'Acquino
HealthCom Consulting Srl
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