Press Notice 57, Session 2006-07

Evidence session

Maternal Health

Tuesday 16 October 2007 at 10:30 am

in Committee Room 6, Palace of Westminster

At 10.30am:

• Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA Executive Director and UN Under Secretary-General

• Dr Francisco Songane, Director, Partnership For Maternal, Newborn & Child Health

At 11.30am:

• Dr Grace Kodindo, Assistant Professor of Emergency Obstetrics Care, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University

This is the first evidence session in the maternal health inquiry. The first panel, featuring two directors of multilateral maternal health initiatives, offers the chance to explore global-level strategies to improve maternal health. Thoraya Obaid is Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and is one of the UN’s Under Secretaries-General. UNFPA works at the interface of population issues, maternal and reproductive health and gender equality. DFID is one of its largest donors. Dr Francisco Songane is Director of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, a global health initiative launched in 2005 that aims to “intensify and harmonise” international efforts towards MDGs 4 and 5, seeking to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health.

The second panel offers the opportunity to explore the reality of developing country maternal healthcare from the perspective of an obstetrician, Dr Grace Kodindo, who works in Chad, a country with one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates. Dr Kodindo’s work in Chad was highlighted in the 2005 BBC Panorama film Dead Mums Don’t Cry. Dr Kodindo works part-time as Assistant Clinical Professor of Emergency Obstetrics Care at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York and as Medical Advocacy Advisor to the Reproductive Health Access, Information and Services in Emergency Settings (RAISE) Initiative, co-led by Columbia University and Marie Stopes International.

The inquiry is focusing on the following points:

• How donors - and DFID specifically - can catalyse progress towards MDG 5

• How effectively DFID is working with recipient countries to make emergency obstetric care available and to ensure that adequate numbers of skilled birth attendants and other staff are being trained to meet MDG 5, and are integrated within a robust health system

• The steps DFID is taking to mainstream maternal health across related policies

• How achieving MDG 5 is being prioritised and integrated into countries’ overall healthcare provision

• How DFID is supporting the 2006 recommendation by the UN General Assembly for an MDG target for universal access to reproductive health

• The progress being made in reducing maternal deaths from unsafe abortion (which account for 13% of all maternal deaths)

• How effective family planning is being promoted as a way to improve maternal health

• How effectively DFID works with bilateral and multilateral donors, NGOs and other stakeholders to promote maternal health

• What leadership the UN is providing and how well co-ordinated its agencies are

• How DFID is addressing socio-economic barriers to women’s empowerment and the low status of women in relation to maternal health

• How the international community can improve maternal health in crisis and conflict settings.



Further Information:

The membership of the Committee is as follows: Malcolm Bruce MP (Chairman, Lib Dem), John Battle MP (Lab), John Bercow MP (Con), Hugh Bayley MP (Lab), Richard Burden MP (Lab), Mr Quentin Davies MP (Con), James Duddridge MP (Con), Ann McKechin MP (Lab), Joan Ruddock MP (Lab), Mr Marsha Singh MP (Lab), Sir Robert Smith MP (Lib Dem)

Committee Contact: Chlöe Challender 020 7219 1522 or

Media Enquiries: Alex Paterson, 020 7219 1589 or

Committee website:

Watch committees and parliamentary debates online:

Publications / Reports / Reference Material: Copies of all select committee reports are available from the Parliamentary Bookshop (12 Bridge St, Westminster, 020 7219 3890) or the Stationery Office (0845 7023474). Committee reports, press releases, evidence transcripts, Bills; research papers, a directory of MPs, plus Hansard (from 8am daily) and much more, can be found on