LSTM to help save lives of mothers and babies in world’s poorest countries

Press release 25 Apr 2012

MORE than 17,000 health workers in the world’s poorest countries will be trained to provide emergency care for millions of mothers and babies by experts from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine with the help of British aid.

The British Government is funding a programme in 12 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia to improve delivery care and reduce the shocking number of lives lost in pregnancy and childbirth.

It has been estimated that, each year, 358,000 women worldwide die from complications arising from pregnancy and childbirth. Worldwide, there are about four million neonatal deaths and three million stillbirths annually.  Three-quarters of all of these deaths occur in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

The Making It Happen scheme will see experts from the North West travel to some of the world's poorest countries to support, monitor and evaluate health services to lead to better care for women.

It follows a successful two-year pilot of the programme in Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe.

By the end of 2011, “Making It Happen”, with the support of UK volunteer midwives, obstetricians and anaesthetists working in the NHS, has improved the knowledge and skills of almost 3,000 healthcare providers from health care facilities.

This has resulted in improved delivery care for over half a million women and their babies, increasing the availability and quality of skilled birth attendance and Emergency Obstetric Care, resulting in a 20-30% reduction in the number of women dying and almost 15% reduction in still-birth rates.

“The whole aim of “Making It Happen” is to design, implement and evaluate evidence-based packages of care for developing countries to try and reduce the number of women and babies who die in childbirth,” says Dr Nynke van den Broek, who heads the Maternal & Newborn Health Unit. “Here in the UK no woman or baby expects to die during pregnancy or childbirth.  Life is very different for women in many developing countries”.

Making It Happen will now operate in up to 12 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and recognises the LSTM Maternal and Newborn Health Unit as an international centre of excellence at the forefront of operational research into Maternal & Newborn Health.

The programme will enable 17,000 healthcare workers to provide emergency maternal and newborn care, including the training over 1,000 national facilitators to sustain the impact of the programme beyond the immediate funding period.

Making It Happen will continue to have a positive outcome on the quality of care that women receive at a health care facility and will contribute to DFID’s commitments:

  • to save the lives of at least 50,000 women in pregnancy and childbirth and 250,000 newborn babies by 2015
  • Support at least 2 million safe deliveries, ensuring long lasting improvements to maternity services, particularly for the poorest 40%.

This week, LSTM’s Maternal & Newborn Health Unit hosted a 3 day international conference in Liverpool, bringing together partners from country governments, UN agencies, RCOG, country professional organisations and UK government to share lessons and experience across the 12 countries involved in the Making It Happen programme.

Stephen O’Brien, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development will attend the official launch of Making It Happen Phase 2 at Liverpool Town Hall this evening (Thursday).

Mr O’Brien said: "It is an international scandal that around the world, one thousand women die every day in pregnancy or childbirth. Nobody should die or suffer ill health because they are pregnant and too poor to afford treatment. The expertise of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and skills of British health workers are envied the world over. Together, they are a vital part of our work to reduce infant and maternal mortality in the world's poorest countries." 


For further information, please contact:

Hazel Snell, Operations Manager
LSTM Maternal and Newborn Health Unit
Tel: 0151 7053707 / 07714 753 843


Notes to Editors:

LSTM’s Maternal & Newborn Health Unit has been awarded around £20m from DFID for the Making it Happen programme. You can find out more about how UK aid is helping to save mothers and babies lives through the Making it Happen programme at

The 12 countries involved in the Making it Happen Programme are:  Kenya, Malawi, Pakistan, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Bangladesh, Ghana, Nepal, Tanzania and India.

The impact of the initiative has been documented in the release of a new film of the “Making It Happen” programme.  Funded by UNICEF and produced by SafeHands for Mothers, this film explores the reality of life for women giving birth in developing countries. The film demonstrates how an intervention package of training, supportive supervision and monitoring and evaluation; can impact and strengthen the availability and quality of care women receive.

The Maternal & Newborn Health Unit is a multi-disciplinary team, based in Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), which focuses on operational research into maternal mortality and morbidity. The Unit offers unique expertise in using a rigorous research approach to inform teaching and technical assistance to improve the health of mothers and babies globally. 

About LSTM

The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) has been engaged in the fight against infectious, debilitating and disabling diseases for more than a hundred years and continues that tradition today with a research portfolio in excess of £190 million and a teaching programme attracting students from over 50 countries. 

SafeHands for Mothers

founded in 2003 aims to contribute to reducing maternal and newborn mortality through the production of documentaries that raise awareness, educate, train and influence policy towards the health of mothers, newborns and their families.