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White Ribbon Alliance Calls for International Monetary Fund and World Bank to Invest in Women's Health

Says Deadly Delays and Broken Promises Make Pregnancy and Childbirth #1 Killer of Women in World Today

WASHINGTON, April 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood today made public its appeals to the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to drastically increase investments in women's health. Citing recent reports that the UN Millennium Development Goal to reduce maternal mortality by 75% by 2015 is unlikely to be met in Asia until 2076 and many years later in Africa, they challenged world leaders to move from empty pledges to definitive action, underscoring that 99% of maternal deaths occur in developing nations and jeopardize progress to reduce infant mortality and combat HIV/AIDS and malaria.

"Maternal mortality is the single greatest health indicator of the failure of governments to meet the basic needs of society's poorest and most vulnerable women, said Theresa Shaver, White Ribbon Alliance Executive Director. "Whether in Bangladesh or the Bronx, where there is the political will to invest in health care systems to provide quality obstetric and emergency care, almost all women live through the complications that would otherwise kill them."

Experts estimate a package of maternal health services costing less than US$1.50 per person could make significant improvements in women's health in the 75 countries where 95% of maternal and child deaths occur. However, funding for population, family planning and reproductive health has declined since the mid-1990s, especially if HIV/AIDS money is excluded. Meanwhile, aid to the least developed countries has essentially stalled since 2003.

"Just as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank played a critical role catalyzing unprecedented investments in anti-retroviral therapy for more than two million people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa, we challenge them to prioritize investments in women's health to save mother's lives now needlessly lost in these same countries," said Lennie Kamwendo, Chairperson of the White Ribbon Alliance in Malawi.

"Every minute another woman dies in childbirth," continued Shaver. "It is past time for the world's most powerful nations to meet their obligations with no less urgency than steps taken to fight the war on terrorism and secure stability of financial institutions. Not only is an investment in women's health one that reaps enormous economic benefits, it is the right thing to do."

The White Ribbon Alliance is leading a global campaign - A Promise to Mothers Lost: Healthy Pregnancy and Safe Childbirth for All - to hold world leaders to account for the tragedy of maternal mortality during the upcoming meetings of the World Economic Forum in South Africa, G8 Summit in Japan and the UN Call to Action in New York.

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