President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca delivered the opening speech at a conference organised at the end of an 8-year international research collaboration (COST Action IS1405 – From Birth to Health) supported by the European Agency for Collaboration in Science and Technology.
The President said that improving and developing the equality of maternal healthcare for mothers and their babies is essential in all countries and societies, further stating that “the European Union must take more responsibility to harmonise equity in maternal healthcare across all of our European family of nations”.
“In this way, we will be reducing avoidable deaths and limiting the risks of ill health”
President Coleiro Preca said that our responsibility towards women and their children emanates from the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child which commit us to provide effective prenatal and postnatal healthcare for all mothers and their children. Moreover, Sustainable Development Goal Number 3, Target 1, from the United Nations Agenda 2030, explicitly states that we have a global responsibility to reduce the world’s maternal mortality ratio.
Referring to the Maternal Healthcare in the European Union Outcome Declaration developed in Malta last year following a roundtable conference organised by the Office of the President, Women Political Leaders Global Forum, and MSD For Mothers, the President said that this declaration highlights worrying indicators from the European Union whilst emphasising the need for governments and healthcare services to take effective action.
These indicators show us that 8 out of every 100,000 women in the European Union die, annually, while giving birth. According to data from the World Health Organisation, every year there are about 1,800 maternal deaths in the entire European Union. Furthermore, 54% of pregnant women who have been seen at Doctors of the World clinics, in nine European countries, were reported to be living in precarity or poverty, and lacked access to necessary maternal healthcare.
“I am proud to say that my Office, working closely with MSD for Mothers and Women Political Leaders, has responded to this worrying reality by carrying out an EU-wide study entitled Improving Maternal Healthcare for Vulnerable Women in EU28”.
The President explained that the study, published this year, highlights the disparities between European Union countries when it comes to maternal healthcare and the lack of culturally sensitive maternal healthcare both for vulnerable and non-vulnerable women.
Furthermore, the President added, “these indicators show that there are still gaps in the scientific research, in this crucial area, and vulnerable groups are at particular risk of exclusion”.
President Coleiro Preca said that a very important fact that needs to be highlighted is that women who are experiencing different forms of vulnerability and precarity are often less able to access essentials maternal healthcare services. These women include teen and young adult mothers; women of Roma heritage; women living in poverty and women who form part of precarious or minority groups.
“I believe that all mothers and their babies, no matter who they are or where they live, should have the same access to protection and support”
The President said that maternal health cannot simply be considered a women’s issue – but at its core, it is an issue of fundamental human rights adding that “we must ensure that a woman is seen in the light of her entire identity, holistically and with dignity.”
President Coleiro Preca called for an investment in our education system, to create a culture that is more capable of respective the inherent dignity of women and their children. Here, the President called on those present, to promote new cultural norms, which ensure safer and more dignified childbirth.
The President also appealed for collaborative efforts on a regional and international level, to raise awareness about the rights of vulnerable pregnant women, not just among the women and adolescent girls themselves, but also their families and communities.
“It is so essential for the policies of our countries to include relevant instruments, which address high-quality maternal healthcare, and are tailored to meet the specific needs of an expectant mother and her unborn child,” The Presidentadded.
Lastly, President Coleiro Preca said that mental and emotional health must be part of this approach, to holistically address the maternal healthcare of all women.
The President of thanked the team behind COST Action IS1405 – From Birth to Health, for the work they have done, over the past eight years, to generate essential and much-needed research, and encouraged them to take this research, and use it to raise the political profile around this issue, as they are in a perfect position to provide the politicians and policy-makers of our nations with the relevant resources, to improve the well-being of expectant mothers.
President Coleiro Preca said that all the countries have a clear responsibility, to safeguard and to protect every mother.
The President also recommended that this research would be the first step to create an EU-wide observatory on holistic and equitable maternal healthcare.