Logo: Merck for Mothers
  • Logo: Merck Be Well

Paving the Way to Equitable Access to Maternal Health in Europe

Key European policy stakeholders got together in Malta for the "Maternal Health and Refugee Women" meeting hosted by the President of Malta to discuss how to ensure that even the most vulnerable women of Europe have access to maternal healthcare services. Merck for Mothers Executive Director Dr. Mary-Ann Etiebet delivered the keynote address at the event.

Safe motherhood is a universal issue, touching all nations. And we know that maternal mortality is a reality in the most medically advanced nations, like the European Union (EU), where it more often strikes the most vulnerable societies.

Throughout Europe it is women who are poor, migrants, or from minority ethnic groups who are most likely to suffer from poor maternal healthcare. Most maternal health programs do not target these groups of women and meet their specific needs, and as a result, they often fall through the cracks of Europe's national health systems.

Merck for Mothers initiated a partnership with a Women Political Leaders Global Forum to bring key political stakeholders of Europe to the table to find solutions to help address this issue. With this objective in mind, a dedicated stakeholder meeting was held in Malta in March.

Within the framework of Malta's Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), the objectives of this meeting were to place maternal health high on the agenda in the national and EU contexts and to inform and empower female Parliamentarians to drive this topic forward in their respective Parliaments. The two-day event included interactive working sessions and a field visit to an Open Refugee Centre.

Following the meeting, the President of Malta, Her Excellency (H.E.) Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, sent an outcome declaration to the Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, and Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos.

The declaration urges EU Health Ministers to make maternal healthcare a political priority in Europe and to make Europe a role model for high quality, accessible and equitable maternal healthcare, for the rest of the world.

Several concrete proposals have been put forward through this declaration, including:

  • A supranational funding mechanism which ensures a free package of standard maternal healthcare for migrant and refugee women in Europe,
  • The development of a roadmap on maternal health for migrant and refugee women to be implemented at the EU level, and
  • The creation of an EU-wide educational campaign on maternal health focusing on migration and the benefits of inclusive societies.

H.E. Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca asked during the meeting "to move the EU from words to action." The President highlighted that "maternal health is not a women's issue, but a fundamental human right," and reminded participants of the commitment to reduce maternal mortality as part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Vytenis Andriukaitis, committed "to appeal to national governments to do their utmost to meet the health needs of migrants and to pay particular attention to maternal health. The EC will continue to use all its legal and financial tools to help Member States in this regard."

Dr. Mary-Ann Etiebet, executive director of Merck for Mothers and keynote speaker at the event said, "We are proud to be a part of this fruitful discussion, which resulted in a strong declaration document urging European leaders to make sure that all women in Europe have equitable access to maternal healthcare, and no woman should die while giving birth."

Tweet from Dr. Mary-Ann Etiebet (with the President of Malta)