Globally, pregnant women still continue to suffer and die from postpartum hemorrhage and pre-eclampsia/eclampsia – when a women has dangerously high blood pressure levels (pre-eclampsia) which can lead to fatal seizures (eclampsia) – even though there are proven therapies that can prevent and treat these conditions.
In 2010, the United Nations (UN) first launched the Every Woman, Every Child initiative to help save the lives of 16 million women and children by 2015 – in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). As a part of this initiative, the UN will soon commence a special Commission focused on overlooked life-saving commodities for women’s and children’s health.
SIAPS took part in planning meetings convened by UNICEF, WHO and UNFPA to prepare for the UN Commission inquiry. Ad hoc working groups were formed to prepare background documentation to analyze existing information on potential barriers to access of maternal and child health medicines including policy and regulatory frameworks, manufacturing issues, procurement, supply chain management and use.
At the request of USAID, SIAPS reviewed documentation submitted by other members of the group and synthesized findings. The documents reviewed included assessments from several countries, journal articles, and reports from various USAID-funded projects. Through this review, several problems in health systems worldwide were identified.
Although prevention and treatment policies for postpartum hemorrhage and pre-eclampsia/eclampsia existed, these policies were often not put into practice appropriately or at all. National medicine regulatory authorities who are supposed to ensure the quality of medicines often lack the capacity to monitor and evaluate maternal health commodities sufficiently. Inadequate storage conditions of medicines lead to severely degraded products that cannot be used to help pregnant women in physical distress. Even data needed to quantify the true supply needs of these medicines are absent.
These findings have been synthesized by the maternal health working group in a report to be presented to a soon-to-be launched UN Commission – a diverse group of leaders and experts invited to catalyze changes in the way overlooked commodities are made, distributed and used in order to prevent the leading causes of death among women. The Commission will advocate at the highest levels to build consensus around priority actions for increasing the availability, affordability, accessibility and rational use of selected commodities for maternal health.