One woman dying in childbirth every minute: G8 leaders asked to honor their promises for action

Published: 9th June 2009

Eight women from poor countries around the world, uniting as the “W8,” today demanded that G8 leaders take action to prevent the deaths of half a million women every year in childbirth.Their appeal came as Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, offered a message of support, along with Nobel Peace Prize winners Jody Williams and Máiread Maguire.Calling themselves the “W8,” Sandhya Venkateswaran, Miranda Akhvlediani, Rokeya Kabir, Kadiatou Baby Maiga, Jiraporn Limpananont, Leonor Magtolis Briones, Elba Rivera-Urbina and Dorothy Ngoma represent national movements for health and education in India, Georgia, Bangladesh, Mali, Thailand, the Philippines, Nicaragua and Malawi respectively.They have written to G8 leaders asking them to honor their promises to support and fund health systems in poor countries and to make health care free for pregnant women and children. Mary Robinson said: “I am very encouraged by this group of highly-respected women leaders from around the world who are asking G8 leaders to be more accountable to the promises they have made on financing for health. I join them in calling on the world leaders meeting in Italy to commit the resources to reduce preventable deaths.”    In a letter to G8 development ministers, due to meet in Rome on Thursday [11 June] ahead of a summit in Italy next month, the W8 said: “The G8 must now offer countries who can not afford their own bail-outs reassurance that mothers and children will not be abandoned. In this economic crisis it is more important than ever that poor people are not turned away from a doctor, and that women have the care they need when they are giving birth to the next generation.” Every minute, a woman dies from complications in pregnancy or childbirth, most of them needlessly. More funding is needed to recruit 4 million “missing” doctors and nurses in poor countries globally.  Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, said: "The leaders of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations meeting in Italy in July would do well to listen to these extraordinary women. Rich nations have moved heaven and earth to save banks and corporations on the brink of financial meltdown.  At the same time, a child dies every three seconds of preventable disease somewhere in the world, and every minute a woman dies in childbirth or pregnancy."  Máiread Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize winner and co-founder of the Community of Peace People, said: "It is unacceptable that in this day-and-age, so many women in poor countries are still dying in pregnancy and childbirth. Life’s start should not be a death sentence. These eight remarkable women are a voice of conscience. If G8 leaders honor promises to find the money to hire doctors and nurses in poor countries, countless lives will be saved."Oxfam supports the W8 in their call for action to prevent maternal mortality.

The G8 must now offer countries who can not afford their own bail-outs reassurance that mothers and children will not be abandoned.

Notes to editors