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Maternal Health

Pregnancy and childbirth are the biggest threats to the lives of women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa. We work with women, girls and entire communities to ensure that more women can give birth safely and with dignity - ensuring that every child has the best possible start in life.

Maternal Health

Every two minutes, a woman dies from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth: that’s around 800 women every day.

For every woman who loses her life, a further 20 to 30 women experience injuries, infections, or disabilities that can affect them for the rest of their lives.

Most of these deaths and injuries are preventable when women have access to the right care and support prior to, during, and following childbirth.

Africa experiences the highest rates of maternal, newborn, and child mortality of any region. Of the hundreds of thousands of women who die while pregnant or giving birth every year, two thirds live in sub-Saharan Africa. The lifetime risk of an African woman dying from pregnancy-related complications is The ten countries with the worst maternal mortality rates are all in Africa.

Why do women die during pregnancy and childbirth?

Like other health challenges, the high number of maternal deaths in some parts of Africa is a reflection of inequitable access to high-quality care. Most of the women who die during pregnancy and childbirth live in low-income countries and in rural areas where healthcare is limited and / or difficult to access.

The most common causes of maternal death include bleeding, infection, high blood pressure, obstructed labour, and unsafe abortions. When a skilled health worker is present during pregnancy and labour – and when that health worker has access to adequate equipment – any complications can be identified and quickly addressed. But when resources are scarce, pregnant women often end up delivering their babies at home without medical assistance.

Why do women die during pregnancy and childbirth?

Maternal Health

Across Africa,
1 in 39
In the wealthier parts of the world,
1 in 4,700
Women in sub-Saharan Africa account for
two thirds

What is Amref Health Africa doing to help?

Improving maternal health is at the heart of Amref Health Africa’s work. We aim to ensure that women across the continent can give birth safely and with dignity. Crucially, we also support women to make informed choices about their reproductive health.


  • Train and support midwives through face-to-face and online learning – meaning they have the option to upskill without having to take time off from their vital work. Our training covers technical skills and – just as importantly – patient care. Amref-trained midwives can ensure women have a positive experience of birth and feel respected and listened to throughout the process.
  • Train Community Health Workers who are a vital source of reliable information to the communities they serve. Community Health Workers can advise women on what kind of support is available, and how to access it.
  • Worked with partners to develop Wheels 4 Life, a helpline for pregnant women in Nairobi who struggled to access ante-natal care during lockdown. By phoning a toll-free number, they could get advice from a doctor or request an ambulance or taxi to take them to hospital. The initiative has since been expanded to five more counties in Kenya.
  • Include sexual and reproductive health in our maternal health programmes so that women are equipped to make informed choices about family planning and contraception.
  • Support girls and young women so they grow up knowing what their rights are when it comes to sexual and reproductive health – and so they feel confident claiming those rights.
  • Support women living with obstetric fistula, an abnormal opening between a woman’s genital tract and her urinary tract or rectum resulting in the leakage of urine, faeces, or both. Fistula is a debilitating condition that has long-term physical and psychological consequences for survivors. It’s something we don’t often hear about in the UK because it’s so rare: but worldwide, an estimated two million women around the world are living with an untreated fistula.
  • Advocate at the highest levels for additional investments in maternal healthcare – including a significant increase in the number of trained midwives and nurses available to support women throughout their pregnancies.

[Photo credits: Nakayiwa Jane, sixteen year victim of Sexual Gender Based Violence, receiving counselling, immunization for her baby and family planning services (c) Watanda Ambrose; Lydia Kuria Maternal Health Worker, Kenya (c) Steve Kaja; Maternal Health, Uganda (c) Chilo Oostergetel; Betty Nagudi and her daughter Victoria -  Elearning Midwife At Jinja School Of Nursing (c) Sam Vox; Jemimah Makau, Amref trained and supported midwife (c) Gregg Telusa]. 

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