Together in the fight against poverty
Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
Goal 5: Improve maternal health
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

Goal 5: Improve maternal health

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The challenge

More than half a million women die in pregnancy and childbirth every year, 99% of which occurs in developing countries.

In developed countries, the birth of a child usually brings happiness. In the poorest parts of the world, it too often turns to tragedy: the day when a child is born is often the day his/her mother dies.

The vast majority of maternal deaths can be prevented. Notably by giving vulnerable young girls (15-20 years and younger) who wish to avoid or delay childbearing, access to safe health care.

The two main challenges are:

  • making access to contraception easier;
  • increasing the number of births and abortions attended by doctors.

Our plan: to reduce by three-quarters the maternal mortality ratio, and achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015.

How are we doing?

how are we doing

There was some improvement in the use of contraceptives and the number of births attended by skilled health personnel. But in developing regions, maternal mortality declined only marginally (28%, whereas the target is 66%), while in Sub-Saharan Africa, it remains very high.

Our action

To reduce maternal mortality, the EU helps developing countries to:

  • build new infrastructures;
  • train midwives and health workers;
  • improve access to contraception;
  • eradicate violence against women – including child marriage.

The EU finances actions on sexual and reproductive health and rights all over the world. It also helps provide equipment and supplies for obstetric and maternal health in 17 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, in conflict or post-conflict situations.

Quick facts

  • Every year more than 1 million children are left motherless because of maternal death
  • 68 000 – the number of deaths caused by unsafe abortions in developing countries each year.

From the field

Woman verifying her name on an election list © European Union, 1995-2010

Behaviour change communication through Radio – Empowering women to improve sexual and reproductive health

In 1999, the BBC's Great Lakes Service launched a radio soap opera dealing with sexual and reproductive health. By talking to people in a simple and humoristic manner about their daily life, the broadcast gradually breaks down taboos by dealing with subjects linked to sexuality, condoms, and women’s healthcare – See the video.

Young men attending a workshop on adolescent reproductive health and HIV © European Union, 1995-2010

Reproductive Health Initiative for Youth in Asia (RHIYA) – Sri Lanka

Attended by 1 000 people and designed to foster a healthy family life, the “Reproductive Health Initiative for Youth” in Sri Lanka was not merely an information event on the HIV pandemic, it also aimed to encourage responsible sexual/reproductive behaviour.


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