The Safe Motherhood Initiative: why has it stalled?
Complications of pregnancy and childbirth are still the leading cause of death and disability among women of reproductive age in developing countries. After decades of neglect, the founding of the Safe Motherhood Initiative in 1987 promised action on this problem. A dozen years later, there is no evidence that maternal mortality has declined and there are still few sizeable programs. A major reason for this disappointing record is that the initiative lacks a clear, concise, feasible strategy. This article reviews the available options and proposes a strategy based on improving the availability and quality of medical treatment of obstetric complications. Once district hospitals and health centers provide such needed care, community mobilization to improve prove utilization may be beneficial. Substantial reductions in maternal deaths would be possible in a relatively short period of time if this strategy were embraced.