UNICEF says in its latest analysis more than 5 million families across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean spend over 40% of their non-food household expenses on maternal health services every year.
The report says that while progress has been made in developing better maternity care around the world, 800 women continue to die from pregnancy-related complications every day.
Around 7,000 stillbirths occur every day, with half of these babies being alive at the time of labour.
In South Asia, three times as many rich women received four or more antenatal care visits than women from poorer families.
UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, said: “For far too many families, the sheer costs of childbirth can be catastrophic. When families cut corners to reduce maternal health care costs, both mothers and their babies suffer.”
The report also highlights that globally pregnancy-related complications are the number one cause of death in girls aged 15-19 years old.
It also said that their children were most likely to die before their fifth birthday.
Henrietta Fore adds: “We are failing to deliver quality care to the poorest and most vulnerable mothers. Too many mothers continue to suffer endlessly, especially during childbirth. We can stop this suffering and save millions of lives with a safe pair of hands, functional facilities and better quality of care before, during and after their pregnancy.”
UNICEF have created the global campaign Every Child Alive to call on governments, health care professionals, families and businesses to invest in health systems starting at community level, training more nurses and midwives, functional health care facilities, prioritising women and babies with life-saving drugs and equipment, and empower adolescent girls and their families to demand and receive quality maternity care.
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