Department for International Development
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Mitchell: Britain to save the lives of thousands of pregnant women

Andrew Mitchell yesterday set out plans to save the lives of more than 7,000 pregnant women as part of Britain’s drive to cut maternal deaths in developing countries.

Women in South Africa and Uganda will benefit from a number of new projects aimed at increasing access to contraception and family planning, ensuring more medical experts are on hand for pregnant women and using the latest technologies to keep track of their progress.

Announcing the new projects in New York, the International Development Secretary warned there is still more to do to reduce the risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth for women in the world’s poorest countries.

In South Africa, 10 districts are being chosen in the first phase of a national programme to reduce maternal and child mortality through a stronger Primary Health Care approach, starting in some of the worst performing districts of South Africa when it comes to maternal health.

An early priority will be the urgent roll out of training to doctors, nurses and midwives to deal with obstetric and neonatal emergencies to reduce the high number of avoidable deaths currently taking place in health facilities.

Training will also be provided to form specialist teams to work in each district containing obstetricians and gynaecologists, paediatricians, family physicians, anaesthetists, midwives and primary care nurses.

These teams will then be available to work in the districts to ensure women have access to trained, professional support.

Effective schemes from elsewhere will also be brought in to the districts potentially including transport vouchers to ensure women are able to attend appointments.

Post-natal care in the districts will also be dramatically improved using the latest technology. Initiatives such as the use of mobile phones and smart cards to remind mothers of appointments and track their attendance as part of the drive to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV and AIDS will be introduced.

Andrew Mitchell said the work would help avoid 3,000 deaths of women in pregnancy and childbirth.

Longer term work will also see improvements to in-service training and a drive to recruit skilled staff either from abroad or to encourage retired staff back into the job.

In Uganda, a joint DFID-USAID project will focus on increasing awareness of and access to modern family planning to allow couples to have more control over when to have children.

This project will complement the recently initiated Joint UN Programme on Population between the Government of Uganda and nine UN institutions which Britain is co-funding to ensure that family planning services are provided as standard practice by Uganda’s public health system.

A further British project in Uganda will enable 170,000 babies to be vaccinated against diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus.

Uganda’s 2,600 hospitals and clinics will also benefit from a programme to ensure they are fully-staffed and fully stocked with antibiotics, anti-malarials, vaccines and contraceptives.

Britain’s action in Uganda will help save the lives of 4,400 women.

Speaking ahead of the Every Woman Every Child event in New York, Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, said:

"Britain is committed to driving down the numbers of women killed every year in pregnancy or childbirth. We will save the lives of 50,000 pregnant women and 250,000 newborn babies as well as giving 10 million people access to modern family planning.

"In some of the world’s poorest countries a girl born today has more chance of dying in childbirth than she does of completing primary school. Women in some parts of the world simply do not have access to the advice, skills or technology that could save them.

"We are focusing on practical solutions. We are making sure there are enough staff, that women can reach health clinics and that appointments are made and kept."

At the UN Millennium Development Goals Summit in New York last year, Andrew Mitchell said Britain would double its commitment to maternal and newborn health up to 2015. The projects in South Africa and Uganda are part of this commitment.

This means Britain will help save the lives of 50,000 pregnant women, 250,000 newborn babies and help 10 million people gain access to modern family planning methods.

For more information please contact the Press Office on 020 7023 0600 or email

Notes to editors

  • British aid will provide £17m for the South Africa projects and £92m for the Uganda projects
  • The funding announced today comes from the commitments made at the 2010 Millennium Development Goal summit
  • The global maternal health commitments made at the MDG Summit can be found at
  • The UK Government’s Framework for Results in Reproductive, Maternal and Newborn health can be found at




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