Health: Maternal Health

My Lords, I care about international development and the achievement of millennium development goal 5. When I attended the sixth Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership meeting in Brussels recently, I successfully tabled an amendment to the final declaration calling for greater efforts to improve maternal health and to reduce maternal mortality.

I feel that it is pertinent to draw attention to the growing adolescent birth rate. Poverty continues to be a factor in perpetuating that worrying trend, but education also plays a significant role. Research suggests that adolescents who have not had access to any type of formal education are four times more likely to fall pregnant than their peers who have completed secondary school.

Improving maternal health is not only a moral obligation but financially prudent. It has been argued that at least 30 per cent of Asia’s economic growth was due to sustainable improvements in reproductive health. The United Nations Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health suggests that maternal health problems result in losses to productivity of up to $15 billion per annum.

I welcome the Government’s commitment to support the global fund in its work to combat the rise of HIV, tuberculosis and malaria in the world’s poorest nations. More than 1 million people with tuberculosis are also infected with the HIV virus. Tuberculosis is responsible for the deaths of more than a quarter of people with the HIV/AIDS virus. In 2008, tuberculosis was responsible for the deaths of more than 300,000 expectant mothers, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

I am also in favour of the coalition Government’s plan to tackle malaria and to reduce maternal fatalities. Malaria kills a child in Africa every 45 seconds. The plans will also ensure that, over the next five years, a minimum of 10 million couples will gain access to education on family planning. Infants and pregnant women are the main victims of malaria-related deaths.

I believe that we have a duty to ensure that lasting progress is made to fulfil millennium development goal 5 by 2015. As a leading nation in the global arena, we must ensure that goal 5-part of the challenging programme that was agreed 15 years ago-results in success.