New Partnership With U.S. and Norwegian Governments and the Private Sector Formed to Save the Lives of Mothers and Their Newborn Children

Saving Mothers, Giving Life Targets Dramatic Reduction in Maternal Deaths Globally

Thursday, June 14, 2012 8:08 am EDT



Public Company Information:

"Coming together in partnership under the Saving Mothers, Giving Life initiative we know that together we can dramatically elevate awareness and inspire action on an issue that touches us all."

The global partnership for Saving Mothers, Giving Life – a unique public-private partnership consisting of founding partners that includes the United States Government, Merck’s initiative Merck for Mothers, the Government of Norway, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College), and Every Mother Counts (EMC) – is being announced in the United States in conjunction with the Child Survival Call to Action event. The partnership aims to aggressively reduce maternal mortality in places where women are dying at alarming rates during pregnancy and childbirth. Maternal and child survival are inextricably linked. As of today, the founding partners have pledged more than $200 million USD in financial resources and additional in-kind resources.

Saving Mothers, Giving Life is a five-year effort focused on helping mothers during the most critical period of labor, delivery, and the first 24 hours that follow birth, when an estimated two-thirds of maternal deaths and almost half of infant deaths occur. The partnership will work in countries where maternal mortality rates are disproportionately high, starting in Uganda and Zambia.

Maternal mortality is one of the oldest and most preventable medical tragedies, and one that reflects global disparities in healthcare. In the next decade, it is estimated that nearly three million women may die from complications due to pregnancy and childbirth. The majority of these maternal deaths are preventable. In addition, 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.

As Secretary Clinton said in her remarks at the Global Health Conference in Oslo, Norway, “I am very pleased that the United States will be a part of the Saving Mothers, Giving Life partnership, along with Merck for Mothers, the Government of Norway, Every Mother Counts, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. We’re not focusing on a single intervention, but on strengthening health systems. I think back to that day when I had my daughter and how fortunate I was. But surviving childbirth and growing up healthy should not be a matter of luck or where you live or how much money you have. It should be a fact for every woman everywhere.”

“A mother's death is a tragedy because it destroys one of the most fundamental human connections – the bond between a mother and her child. Compounding this tragedy is the way this death unravels families and communities. The effects of a mother's loss can echo for generations. Merck is supporting Saving Mothers, Giving Life through our Merck for Mothers initiative because we need to make a change,” said Kenneth C. Frazier, Merck’s chairman and CEO. “We know there are serious obstacles to overcome, but there is incredible commitment among the partners who are coming together through the Saving Mothers, Giving Life endeavor inspired by a single mission – to save lives.” Working in close cooperation with national and local governments, the effort will strengthen district health systems and provide proven, cost-effective solutions. A rigorous evaluation process will identify ways to replicate success on a larger scale, both in Africa and beyond.

Saving Mothers, Giving Life will:

Develop quality maternal health services, including appropriate human resources and safe facilities, through district health networks for comprehensive, integrated maternal healthcare

Enlist new public and private partners around the world to leverage expertise and co-invest in maternal healthIncrease awareness and support among the American public with the goal of saving mothers’ lives around the world

“Approximately 800 women die in childbirth every day. These tragedies are both unacceptable and unnecessary. Saving women’s lives requires a well functioning health service at multiple levels and therefore a deeper kind of partnership between countries. Saving Mothers, Giving Life is a new, catalytic, public-private, ‘north-south’ partnership – to ensure sustainable results and self-reliance,” said the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway Jonas Gahr Støre.

Countries in sub-Saharan Africa have tragically high rates of maternal mortality. In Uganda, Saving Mothers, Giving Life will start with a focus on the districts of Kabarole, Kibaale, Kamwenge, and Kyenjojo. In Zambia, the endeavor will start with a focus on the districts of Lundazi, Nyimba, Kalomo, and Mansa.

“This partnership is a wonderful opportunity to dramatically accelerate progress in preventing maternal deaths and we consider it a real privilege to do our part,” said Herbert B. Peterson, M.D., chair of The College's Global Operations Advisory Group. “We know that deaths from pregnancy and childbirth can be prevented and, working together, we can seize this moment and get it done.”

Maternal mortality remains one of the leading causes of death among women of reproductive age in developing countries. Approximately every two minutes a woman dies during pregnancy or childbirth. For every woman who dies in childbirth, at least 20 more suffer injury, infection or disability.

“We each understand that it will take many of us to reduce global maternal mortality,” said Christy Turlington Burns, founder of Every Mother Counts. “Coming together in partnership under the Saving Mothers, Giving Life initiative we know that together we can dramatically elevate awareness and inspire action on an issue that touches us all.”

More than 80% of maternal deaths are caused directly by complications such as severe bleeding, high blood pressure, obstructed labor and infections. A shortage of adequately trained healthcare providers, lack of access to healthcare facilities and necessary medications, and poor transportation also contribute to maternal mortality. HIV/AIDS is also a common, indirect cause of death during pregnancy.

The United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) seek to address the world's greatest development priorities through time-bound targets. As stated in the Countdown to 2015 report, “Building a Future for Women and Children,” released this week, the world has made impressive progress towards MDG 4, which calls for a two-thirds reduction in child deaths by 2015, and MDG 5, which calls for a three-quarters reduction in maternal deaths by 2015. However, despite this progress, the world is not on pace to meet either MDG 4 or 5, and both maternal and child health remain inadequately financed.

Saving Mothers, Giving Life builds on the U.S. government’s longstanding commitment to global health, including PEPFAR and USAID’s host of maternal and child health programs,” remarked Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). “We look forward to working with the partners to leverage these and other platforms to make an accelerated impact on the health of women and newborns in need.”

The Role of the Partners

About U.S. Global Health Initiative

U.S. Global Health Initiative (GHI) will provide leadership and strategic direction to coordinate program implementation, leveraging the strengths across the U.S. Government, particularly building on the U.S. Government’s deep, long-standing relationships with partner countries. Core GHI agencies include the State Department and USAID, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, who work in collaboration with other US Government agencies.

About Merck for Mothers

Merck for Mothers is an initiative of Merck (known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada), a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. Merck for Mothers is a 10-year, half-billion-dollar effort to create a world where no woman has to die giving life. The initiative will speed up access to life-saving solutions for women across the globe, develop new technologies, and bring the issue of maternal mortality to the forefront of global consciousness. Merck for Mothers will support Saving Mothers, Giving Life by guiding the strategic direction of the initiative, supporting on-the-ground program implementation and evaluation, working with partners to raise public awareness, and serving as the Secretariat.

About American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College), the nation’s leading group of physicians providing healthcare for women, will provide technical and clinical leadership expertise and leverage its members and other professional associations to support Saving Mothers, Giving Life.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College), a 501(c)(3) organization, is a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization of approximately 57,000 members, The College strongly advocates for quality healthcare for women, maintains the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education of its members, promotes patient education, and increases awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women’s healthcare.

About Every Mother Counts

Every Mother Counts (EMC), an advocacy and mobilization campaign to increase education and support for maternal mortality reduction globally, will raise public awareness, advocate for global maternal health, and initiate fundraising efforts.

EMC, a 501(c)(3) organization, seeks to engage new audiences to better understand the challenges and the solutions while encouraging them to take action to improve the lives of girls and women worldwide.

About The Government of Norway

The Government of Norway is improving maternal health, a cornerstone of Norway’s international development policy. Norway will provide co-leadership globally, including by mobilizing international support through partnerships with African leaders and with other donor governments as well as by drawing on related global and regional initiatives such as the UN Secretary-General’s “Every Woman, Every Child.” The Government of Norway will – as a Founding Participant in the Saving Mothers, Giving Life partnership – support program implementation with a particular focus on promoting sustainability.

To learn more, visit


Merck for Mothers,
Kelley Dougherty, 267-664-8679,
Global Health Initiative,
Chris Dorval, 202-647-3996,
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists,
Greg Phillips, 202-484-3321,
Every Mother Counts,
Debra Duffy, 212-685-4300,
Media Office, The Norwegian Government Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
+47 23950002,