Protecting the health of mothers and children is one of the world's most important concerns and a core focus of Merlin's work.
Every two minutes, at least one woman dies from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth – which equals 287,000 women a year. In addition, for every woman who dies in childbirth, around 20 more suffer injury, infection or disease. A sick mother means that her newborn child is at risk.
Most of these deaths could be prevented. The main causes of death during pregnancy or childbirth are bleeding, infection and unsafe abortion.
The simplest way to prevent these deaths is to prevent the pregnancy. It is estimated that around 20 million unsafe abortions occur each year, which result in thousands of deaths. Many of these unsafe abrtions occur where there is little or no access to family planning.
We’re are providing family planning and post abortion care for women in 16 countries, increasing awareness about modern contraceptive methods and educating women about their right to choose, as well as build the capacity of local service providers to provide these services.
By 2015 we hope to have given an additional 1.5 million women access to family planning services.
A shortage of midwives
In many of the countries where Merlin works, a chronic shortage of midwives is thought to be one of the major factors behind the high levels of maternal mortality. In some countries, as few as 10% of women give birth with a skilled attendant present. To reduce the number of women dying in childbirth, Merlin is improving maternal care by establishing midwifery training schools, supporting community midwives and making maternal health care more accessible to women before, during and after pregnancy.
To contribute to global efforts to achieve Millennium Development Goal 5 (improve maternal health), we want to ensure that 6,000 trained or skilled health workers are available to provide life saving care to pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and newborns by 2015.
A healthy mothers is more likely to have a healthy baby.
Caring for infants and children
In parts of Africa and Asia up to 40 times more children die before they reach the age of five than in Britain and the USA.
The highest rates of child mortality are still in sub-Saharan Africa, where 1 in 9 children die before reaching their 5th birthday. Due to a lack of access to even the most basic medical care and a shortage of birth attendants, these children’s lives are at risk from the moment they are born.
Across the globe, the leading causes of deaths among children under five include pneumonia; birth complications; diarrhoea; malaria; and malnutrition. The majority of deaths are preventable and could be avoided.
By training and increasing the number of community midwives, improving medical treatment, running vaccination programmes, encouraging breastfeeding and establishing feeding clinics for those suffering from malnutrition, Merlin is helping thousands of children live to celebrate their fifth birthday.