U.S., Norway pledge $150 million for maternal health

OSLO Sat Jun 2, 2012 5:46am IST

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OSLO (Reuters) - The United States and Norway each pledged on Friday to give in the range of $75 million to help protect mothers during labor, delivery and the first 24 hours after birth.

The money would go into the "Saving Mothers, Giving Life," initiative, a partnership financed with public and private funds that seeks to reduce the death of mothers immediately before, during and soon after they give birth.

Recalling the 1980 birth of her daughter, Chelsea, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mused about how she would have felt had she not had a healthcare facility with skilled doctors and nurses and the equipment and expertise to handle emergencies.

"How fortunate I was. But surviving childbirth and growing up healthy should not be a matter of luck or where you live or how much money you have. It should be a fact for every woman everywhere," Clinton said as she announced the $75 million U.S. contribution at a health conference in Norway.

A U.S. official said $60 million had already been approved by the U.S. Congress, and the other $15 million was part of the Obama administration's budget request for the year beginning October 1.

At the same conference, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr said Norway would devote up to about $80 million to the effort, whose partners include drug maker Merck & Co and nonprofit Every Mother Counts.

Norway's pledge is also subject to parliamentary approval.

Rather than focusing on a single step to reduce maternal mortality, Clinton said the aim was to strengthen health systems more generally, saying the existence of 24-hour clinics, the availability of skilled doctors, nurses and midwives and the reliability of transportation networks all play a role.

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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