Reducing Maternal Mortality: Actual and Potential Roles for Faith-linked Institutions and Communities
November 10, 2011
This report reviews the work of faith-inspired leaders, communities, and organizations in worldwide efforts to reduce
maternal mortality. Maternal mortality rates represent one of the most extreme cases of inequality in public health
worldwide, but decades of global action have failed to remedy the gap between wealthy and poorer countries when it
comes to maternal health. However, recent evidence that global maternal mortality is decreasing significantly, if gradually,
has helped strengthen momentum and refocus attention on the issue.
Written as a collaboration between the Berkley Center at Georgetown University and the World Faiths Development
Dialogue, this report describes the critical roles that faith-inspired actors play in addressing maternal mortality worldwide.
It highlights what makes faith-inspired organizations distinctive in their approach to maternal health, from the
long histories and networks that many of these organizations have established where maternal mortality rates are the
highest, to holistic approaches to care that can address the many facets that lead to maternal death. It also examines
the challenges at the intersections of faith and maternal mortality, and suggests ways that faith-inspired work could be
expanded and improved. Thus it aims to inform policymakers and practitioners about areas where action is both desirable
and feasible. A further hope is that the analysis will spark collaboration in coordinating, replicating, and scaling
up these efforts.
A draft of the report was the basis of a consultation held at
Georgetown in June 2011, and the authors gratefully acknowledge additional inputs from those who submitted comments
on the draft report. It was prepared from January to October 2011 and is largely based on desk research and
interviews with practitioners. This is one of a series of Berkley Center issue surveys made possible through the support
of the Luce/SFS Program on Religion and International Affairs.
Table of Contents
Section 1: What is Maternal Mortality?
Section 2: Making childbirth safer: quality obstetric care
Section 3: Indirect factors leading to maternal death: social magnifiers
and medical complications
Section 4: Faith-inspired engagement with maternal mortality:
opportunities and barriers
Section 5: Moving forward: Questions, issues, challenges, opportunities
Appendix A: Challenges and debates around statistical measures of maternal mortality
Appendix B: Major NGO and initiatives working on maternal mortality
Appendix C: Technical details of obstetric intervention strategies