Statement at a Plenary Session of the 54th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, on Eliminating Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Through the Empowerment of Women, at United Nations Headquarters

Susan E. Rice
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
March 11, 2010


Thank you Mr. Chairman.  On behalf of Belarus, Benin, Colombia, Ghana, Indonesia, Israel, Kenya, Panama, Rwanda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Thailand, Zambia and the United States, we are pleased to introduce this resolution on Eliminating Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Through the Empowerment of Women.

A decade after the United Nations established the ambitious Millennium Development Goal related to maternal health, maternal mortality around the world remains alarmingly high.  Every year, an estimated 530,000 women die from largely preventable complications during pregnancy or childbirth. That means that a woman dies from pregnancy-related conditions once every minute.  For every woman who dies, 20 more women suffer injury, infection, or disease.  Fully one third of the more than half a million deaths during pregnancy and childbirth every year is estimated to stem from unintended pregnancies—but more than 215 million women still lack access to modern forms of contraception and, therefore, lack control over their most basic reproductive choices. 

These statistics tell an alarming story.  And the fact remains that less progress has been made on the Millennium Development Goal on maternal health than on any of the other Goals.   We must take action now. 

The resolution we introduce today urges governments, development partners, and civil society to tackle this problem—through strengthened political will and through increased resources needed to address the problem of preventable maternal mortality and morbidity.  It also recognizes that this issue is directly linked to persistent gender inequalities and calls on Member States to address the economic, cultural, social, and legal barriers that contribute to maternal mortality and morbidity.

Importantly, the resolution builds on the progress and frameworks adopted in Beijing and Cairo. Those documents have been reaffirmed in many fora since and have been acted upon by a wide range of governments.  They recognize the fundamental importance of providing women access to comprehensive health services, including sexual and reproductive health services, based on a strong health system, of ensuring that young people have access to health services that enable them to stay well, and of promoting and protecting the human rights of women and girls.

With our partners, Mr. Chairman, we are introducing this resolution to energize the international community to advance an urgent goal: that is, saving women’s lives.

We welcome very much co-sponsors, and look forward to the adoption of this resolution. Thank you.


PRN: 2010/041