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Maternal and Child Health

Woman and child who received antenatal and postnatal care through the voucher system

Those who work on health issues in the developing world can take pride in the progress that has been made in the past few decades. Maternal health advocates, for example, now have good evidence showing which interventions and modes of service delivery are the most effective in preventing maternal deaths and morbidity.

Unfortunately, maternal mortality is still a common fact of life. Every minute of the day, every day of the year, a woman dies from largely preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Ninety-nine percent of these women live in the developing world, where maternal mortality is 20 times higher than in developed countries. Indeed, maternal mortality is the health indicator with the greatest disparity between the developed and the developing world.

And maternal mortality is just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to the half million women who die during childbirth each year, it is estimated that another 15 to 20 million women suffer long-term complications that significantly affect their lives.

Through policy dialogue and implementation, the USAID | Health Policy Initiative strives to increase access to and use of key maternal health services in developing countries worldwide. In particular, the initiative focuses on targeting subsidized services to women most in need, removing operational barriers to service access, building the capacity of maternal health advocates (including women and midwives) to participate in the policy process, and strengthening political commitment to adopt and implement appropriate policies and programs.

 Photo: Woman and child who received antenatal and postnatal care through the voucher system in India. Credit: Suneeta Sharma, USAID | Health Policy Initiative TO1