New leadership group will spearhead drive against maternal mortality

A new international leadership group to tackle Maternal Mortality was launched today, with Bience Gawanas (African Union) and Sarah Brown as the co-chairs.

This high level group - initiated by grassroots organizations and backed by the Network of Global Leaders - will help lead the global fight against Maternal Mortality.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, the initiator of the Network of Global Leaders said:

"We welcome and support the establishment of this important group. Every minute a mother dies in pregnancy or childbirth. This is an unnecessary tragedy. These women need a strong voice that will bring attention to their plight and push for the support they need."

The group - announced as Maternal Mortality campaigners meet in London today - will be made up of activists, academics, heath care professionals and first ladies from around the world. Its full membership will be announced in the coming months.

The group will seek to catalyse efforts at a national and international level to tackle the problem.

Sarah Brown said :

"As the poverty goal that has seen no progress in twenty years, tackling maternal mortality must be a priority for all of us. It is an outrage that 1 in 7 mothers can expect to die as a result of pregnancy in countries like Sierra Leone, compared to almost 1 in 50,000 in developed ones."

Bience Gawanas, Commissioner of Social Affairs at the African Union, said :

"In Africa getting pregnant is a gamble between life and death. Almost half of women in the developing world give birth with no nurse or midwife - the result can be agony, disability or all too often death. Unlike some health issues it's very hard to predict who is at risk - we therefore need to make health systems themselves more effective if we're to make progress."

Theresa Shaver, President of the White Ribbon Alliance said:
"Leadership on this issue will make a real difference. Sarah Brown and Bience Gawansa will be a dream team in taking on the obstacles to progress."

Read Sarah Brown's editorial in the Guardian.