MSD’s maternal health initiative passes big milestone


A $650 million programme set up by pharma group MSD to help prevent maternal mortality and improve health equity around the world has reached over 30 million women, easily outpacing its target of 25 million by 2025.

The MSD for Mothers campaign was launched more than a decade ago and has now supported more than 200 maternal healthcare programmes in over 70 countries. In the US and Canada, where MSD is known as Merck & Co, it runs under the Merck for Mothers banner.

Despite advances in healthcare, maternal mortality remains a critical issue worldwide, with approximately 800 women dying every day due to preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, around 95% of them in low and lower-middle-income countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The most common causes of death are severe bleeding and infections – mainly after childbirth – as well as high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia) during pregnancy, delivery complications, and unsafe abortions.

MSD for Mothers’ goal is to help meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal target of reducing the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) from a 2020 level of 223 per 100,000 live births to less than 70 by 2030. It is estimated that achieving this goal would save the lives of approximately 1.4 million women between 2016 and 2030.

Examples of the programmes supported by the initiative in Nigeria include the formation of the Saving Mothers, Giving Life (SMGL 2.0) project with Pathfinder Nigeria, PharmAccess Foundation and the Kaduna State Ministry of Health.

Nigeria is the country with the most maternal deaths worldwide, and SMGL 2.0 was formed to scale up emergency obstetrics and neonatal care, improve access to maternal and neonatal health (MNH) services, and set up a community-led emergency transport system, among other initiatives. The result has been a 60% reduction in maternal deaths and 16% drop in neonatal deaths across 25 private health facilities, according to MSD.

Meanwhile, in Brazil, a maternity care protocol training programme delivered to 250 health providers in Pernambuco State resulted in a 54% decline in maternal deaths within two years. In the US – the only high-income country in which maternal mortality is on the rise – MSD for Mothers is focusing on programmes to address racial inequities in maternal health outcomes.

“I am so proud of our company’s long-standing commitment to our MSD for Mothers initiative, which is dedicated to improving maternal health outcomes around the world,” said Allison Goldberg, president of the Merck Foundation.

“This milestone serves as a reminder that much work is left to be done, and we remain committed to helping create a world where no woman has to die while giving life.”