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Investing in Mothers and Newborns


Women hold their newborn babies at a program in Chennai, India.

One of the prime goals of the Global Health Initiative, President Barack Obama’s signature program, is to improve the quality of the lives of women and girls.

One of the prime goals of the Global Health Initiative, President Barack Obama’s signature program, is to improve the quality of the lives of women and girls. And what better way to start than by reducing the number of deaths among mothers and newborns.

In low and middle income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, childbirth and the 48 hours around it are one of the most vulnerable times for a mother and baby. Every year, 289,000 women die in pregnancy or of pregnancy related complications, 2.9 million newborns die, and 2.6 million babies are stillborn.

That is why three years ago, the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, launched the "Saving Lives At Birth: A Grand Challenge For Development" initiative, a global partnership between USAID; the government of Norway; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the non-profit Grand Challenges Canada; and the U.K.’s Department for International Development; and the World Bank.

The initiative serves to encourage the development of creative and innovative solutions with regard to medical treatment, prevention and technologies that have the capacity to reduce infant and maternal mortality around the time of birth. In less than four years, the Grand Challenge for Development has funded 81 innovations that help improve the survival chances of new mothers and their infants.

In fact, the initiative is so promising that the Saving Lives at Birth partners recently announced that they aim to a new commitment to invest up to another $50 million. Thus, over the next five years, the additional funding will accelerate and expand Saving Lives at Birth’s investment into groundbreaking, sustainable projects that will help save the lives of pregnant women and their infants in some of the hardest-to-reach corners of the world.

“Saving Lives at Birth has mobilized the world’s brightest thinkers, researchers and entrepreneurs around the critical issue of maternal and newborn health,” said USAID Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah. “During the next stage of this Challenge, we aim to put an even greater focus on sourcing and accelerating innovations that significantly expand our reach to families around the world.”

Saving the lives of mothers and children one of the best investments we can make.

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