Thematic file

Fighting maternal and infant mortality: a critical issue for development and the fight against poverty

More than 360,000 pregnant women die every year due to complications during childbirth, and 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries. It is estimated that in 2010 one child in every 22 died before reaching its first birthday, a total of 6.2 million children worldwide before. Most of these child deaths occurred in developing countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa (46% of these deaths) though it is home to only 16% of the world’s population.

While some countries have made progress in maternal and child health in recent years, there is still a huge gap between industrialized and developing countries: the infant mortality rate in sub-Saharan Africa is 24 times higher than that in richer countries, and women living in the poorest countries are 300 times more likely than those in industrialized countries to die from complications during pregnancy or childbirth. Attaining the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 would mean being able to reduce child mortality by two thirds, and maternal mortality by three-quarters by 2015, a target that now appears impossible. But these figures should stir us to further action and commitment from both developing countries and richer countries to help improve the overall health of mothers and children around the world.

High rates of maternal mortality continue to be unacceptable in many countries of the developing world. In 2005, more than 500,000 women died during pregnancy, delivery, or within the six weeks of giving birth.

In 2006, for the first time in history, the annual mortality rates for children under five fell below the ten million mark. However, millions of children die each year from preventable causes. A child born in a developing country is 13 times more likely to die during the first five years of their life than a child born in an industrialized country.

The unmet needs in the field of family planning - the difference between the stated desire of a woman to delay pregnancy until later or not to have children, and the actual use of contraception - have declined in the majority of countries whose trends are discernible. In all regions, this need remains particularly unsatisfied in the poorest households.

The United Nations has set three targets for 2015:

1. Reduce the maternal mortality rate by three quarters between 1990 and 2015.

2. Make access to reproductive health universal by 2015.

3. Reduce the mortality rate among children under five by two thirds between 1990 and 2015.

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Sanofi Espoir Foundation, whose mission is to help reduce health inequalities and hence fight against poverty, has focused on overcoming maternal and infant mortality in developing countries as a key priority.

This strong commitment translates into 15 projects targeting populations in 34 base-of-the-pyramid countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. These projects aim to:

  • Improve prevention education through community and participatory outreach.
  • Strengthen the training of health workers and improve healthcare quality.
  • Innovate to offer appropriate solutions for better health coverage.
  • Extend networking and empowerment to all stakeholders in the healthcare chain.
Investing in women is one of the most effective strategies for improving our global society as women are key actors for development and poverty reduction.

Jean-François Dehecq, President of the Sanofi Espoir Foundation


Juan Antonio de Castro de Arespacochaga, Professor and Director of Development Policy Group at the Complutensian University of Madrid, and Member of the Board of Directors of Sanofi Espoir Foundation, gives us his vision of the Millennium.

Juan Antonio de Castro de Arespacochaga - Member of the Board of Directors  


Grace Kodindo, a Chadian Obstetrician, Professor at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York, Member of the Board of Directors of Sanofi Espoir Foundation, talks about this cause that should become a key healthcare priority in developing countries.

Grace Kodindo - Member of the Board of Directors