In the 20th century, pregnancy and childbirth killed more than tuberculosis, suicide, traffic accidents and AIDS, combined.

Of all pregnancies anywhere, 15 percent will have a potentially fatal complication. In the developing world, having a baby will be the riskiest thing many women will do. Yet in half of all cases, mothers there deliver without any skilled attendant. Often, only their mother-in-law is present. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, a woman has a lifetime risk of 1 in 39 of dying from pregnancy-related complications.

Globally, an estimated 303,000 maternal deaths occurred in 2015. In Uganda alone (where the Save the Mothers program is based), some 6,000 women die a maternal death every year. (That is more than 200 times the number of women who die of the same sorts of complications in Canada, a country with roughly the same size population.)

One in four women who die during childbirth simply bleed to death. This can often be prevented by a medication that costs less than 99 cents.

“I don’t believe that we will make progress on HIV/AIDS without addressing maternal mortality. We will not make the progress we want on malaria without addressing maternal mortality. We will not make progress on getting more children to school without reducing maternal mortality. When a mother survives, a lot survives with her.”
—Sarah Brown, Wife of former Prime Minister of the U.K.

The death of one mother often leaves a family of orphans. These children are more vulnerable to sickness and death. In addition, for every woman who dies in childbirth, about 20 women suffer injury, infection or disease – approximately 10 million women each year. Some develop a fistula, a tear in the bladder or rectum or birth canal that leaves them incontinent: they are women who will be thrown out of their families and villages, like lepers.