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World Bank Launches Reproductive Health Action Plan

The World Bank has created a five-year plan with the goal of achieving the fifth United Nations (UN) 2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG 5) to improve maternal health. The Reproductive Health Action Plan, released May 11, 2010, aims to improve family planning in 58 developing countries. The plan includes health care worker training, reproductive health training, and increasing women’s access to contraception and maternal health services. It is hoped that its success will be measured by the achievement of “lower fertility rates, improved pregnancy outcomes, and lower sexually transmitted infections [STIs].”[1]
This new plan to aid maternal health was announced a month after a renewed dedication on the part of the UN to accomplish MDG 5, as there has been the least measured improvement of this goal out of all the Millennium Development Goals. In April, the UN launched its reproductive, maternal, and newborn health initiative. Similar to the World Bank plan, the UN plan focuses on reaching MDG 5 through increased emergency care and health worker training.
The area of international reproductive health has received an inadequate number of resources and an insufficient amount of support and attention over the past few years. Recent World Bank figures show that funding for reproductive health increased from $901 million in 1995 to $1.9 billion in 2007, not even doubling, whereas developmental aid for health concerns increased almost fivefold to $14.1 billion in 2007, from $2.9 billion in 1995.[2] There are a great number of reasons for the lack of attention and support the area of maternal and reproductive health has received, including the wider range of problems developing countries experience and the perceived success in reducing fertility rates around the world.
The World Bank’s Reproductive Health Action Plan demonstrates the greatest challenges that the international community has faced in reducing the rate of child and maternal deaths by 75 percent, as decreed by MDG 5.[3] Its focus on education, health, and safety before pregnancy, as well as during and after, shows the importance of sexuality education to the safety of a mother and child. A study published in the Lancet reports that approximately one in five maternal deaths in 2008 was associated with an AIDS infection.[4]
The plan suggests that more coordinated actions, additional resources, greater leadership, and political dedication are needed to address these issues. It proposes a decrease in female mortality rates by increasing women’s access to contraception, as well as the number of prenatal visits. Contraceptive access will help prevent unplanned pregnancies, reduce the number of unsafe abortions, give women the ability to decide if they want to have children, and control the spacing of their pregnancies if they do decide to have children. Additionally, health care services given to women via prenatal visits will help to prevent childbirth complications, thereby decreasing both maternal and child deaths.
With greater initiatives taken before pregnancy to educate sexually active men and women, bolstered by advanced medical training for those aiding in pregnancy and childbirth, the World Bank plan is an attempt to comprehensively address interrelated issues to improve maternal health.

[1] World Bank, The World Bank’s Reproductive Health Action Plan 2010–2015, April 2010, accessed 14 May 2010, <>.

[2] World Bank, More Condoms, Contraceptives, Midwives, and Educated Girls Could Prevent Most Maternal Deaths—New World Bank Reproductive Action Plan,” 11 May 2010, accessed 28 May 2010, <,,contentMDK:22576512~pagePK:64257043~piPK:437376~theSitePK:4607,00.html>.

[3] United Nations, Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health, May 2010, accessed 28 May 2010, <>.

[4] Reuters News Service, “Maternal Deaths Down in Poor Countries,” 12 April 2010, accessed 23 May 2010, <>.