Although maternal mortality has declined substantially over the past two decades, the world is off track to meet UN Millennium Development Goal 5 (MDG5) to reduce the rate of maternal mortality by 75 percent by 2015.

Merck for Mothers is our company’s 10-year, $500 million initiative to address one of the world’s oldest and most preventable health tragedies—the death of a woman from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. We are working closely with governments, international organizations, health experts and those on the front lines to apply Merck’s business and scientific expertise to accelerate progress toward reducing maternal mortality.

Merck for Mothers is addressing the two leading causes of maternal mortality: postpartum hemorrhage (bleeding after childbirth) and preeclampsia (hypertensive disorders). We are also focusing on family planning, which is known to play an important role in reducing maternal mortality.

Since launching Merck for Mothers in 2011, we have pledged US$105 million to initiate over 30 projects in more than 20 countries and collaborated with more than 75 implementing partners and advocacy organizations. Our work focuses on three key areas—product innovation, access to affordable care, and advocacy and awareness. More information on each of these areas is available in the tabs above.

Engaging Merck Employees

Throughout the year, events at 18 Merck sites raised awareness about Merck for Mothers and provided information through internal channels, including our online newsletter and employee associations. The 2012 “May is for Mothers” employee events, which were designed to increase awareness and understanding about the program, were conducted by volunteer employee ambassadors in nearly two dozen Merck locations around the world. Across the participating sites, more than 2,300 employees heard about Merck’s commitment and how to volunteer their time and talent with maternal health organizations. Along with the event, employees around the world showed their support for Merck for Mothers by sending nearly 13,000 e-cards throughout the month of May.

Evaluating the Program

Merck for Mothers has engaged a team of evaluators from The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, with expertise in measurement of maternal mortality, to conduct a robust evaluation of Merck for Mothers as well as provide ongoing support and guidance. We have identified a set of metrics that represents the priorities and objectives of the program. We will begin reporting next year on a subset of those metrics, as noted below. We will also continue to analyze the program and review and refine the metrics, as necessary.


In support of Saving Mothers, Giving Life, we have enlisted Columbia University to assess the progress of the program and identify the elements that are most effective in reducing maternal mortality. The evaluations are also designed to inform program adaptations as the initiatives move forward and advance the maternal health field. Results of the evaluations will be made public.

The Year Ahead

In 2013, we plan to embark on programs in India, the country with the highest number of maternal deaths, and Zambia. Merck for Mothers will also begin efforts in Brazil and the U.S., two countries with pockets of high maternal mortality and morbidity. In the U.S., Merck will be supporting several projects to address gaps in data on maternal deaths, improve clinical practice in emergency obstetric care, and strengthen community-based efforts to link pregnant women with pre-existing conditions to care.

Developing and improving user-friendly technologies to diagnose, prevent and treat postpartum hemorrhage and preeclampsia.

Merck’s Partnership with PATH

Researchers from Merck and PATH, a leading technology nonprofit organization, have rigorously evaluated 40 maternal health innovations and identified those with the greatest potential to save women’s lives in low-resource settings. As a result of the evaluation, the global health community has an in-depth, comparative assessment tool, available at, to help inform decisions about where to invest its scarce resources in technologies to reduce maternal mortality.

Improving the quality, accessibility and affordability of maternal health services, so more women can have healthy pregnancies and births.

Saving Mothers, Giving Life (SMGL)

Merck is a founding member of Saving Mothers, Giving Life, a five-year public-private partnership to reduce maternal mortality in sub-Saharan Africa. Other partners are the U.S. Government, the Government of Norway, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Every Mother Counts (an advocacy organization) and Project C.U.R.E. (a nonprofit distributor of donated medical supplies and equipment). Early results show:

  • The number of pregnant women delivering in healthcare facilities has increased by nearly 50 percent in the targeted districts in both Uganda and Zambia
  • The percentage of pregnant women who had their fourth antenatal care visit has doubled in Ugandan target districts since SMGL’s launch, allowing enough time for women to get needed checks in line with WHO recommendations
  • In Uganda, eight labor/delivery rooms, seven operating theatres and seven maternity blocks serving approximately 100,000 people are now fully functional
  • All of the facilities in the targeted districts in Uganda which provide Caesarean sections are now able to provide safe blood for women who are hemorrhaging
  • More than 300 new doctors, nurses, midwives and technical officers have been added to the health workforce in both Uganda and Zambia, providing both basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric as well as HIV care

Partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Family Planning

Merck for Mothers and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have established a $50 million partnership to increase access to family planning. The new collaboration will focus on three key areas:

  • Increasing awareness of and education about family planning services among women and girls in resource-limited settings
  • Improving the supply chain for quality family planning resources and services to advance maternal health
  • Working with governments, the private sector, civil society and local health providers to increase support and access to family planning services

Exploring Ways to Improve the Provision of Maternal Care

Merck for Mothers is committed to helping governments reach their Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets and focusing its efforts on understanding and strengthening the often neglected—but growing—role that private healthcare providers and businesses play in healthcare delivery in the developing world. Merck for Mothers programs in countries with a high burden of maternal mortality are aligned with this strategy and focus on improving access to affordable, high-quality care.

Merck for Ugandan Mothers (MUM) Program

We launched the Merck for Ugandan Mothers (MUM) Program, a partnership with Population Services International and its local affiliate, the Program for Accessible Health, Communication and Education, to explore how best to expand and improve the private delivery of maternal healthcare in up to 30 districts over three years. The MUM program is valued at $9 million and complements the work of SMGL, which is designed to strengthen the public maternal health system. The program has accomplished the following:

  • Conducted a small field-based acceptability study to inform the contents of Mama Kits, which are all-in-one kits that contain everything needed to help provide a clean and safe delivery
  • Recruited 36 clinics in 7 districts to join the ProFam franchise network of private clinics offering quality maternal health services
  • Adapted a 5-day training curriculum on labor and delivery care for private healthcare providers, and developed a supportive supervision system for ongoing quality assurance and training

Merck for Mothers Global Giving Program

During its first year, the Merck for Mothers Global Giving Program awarded $9 million in grants to support 22 projects designed to improve maternal health in 18 countries around the world. The programs are funded by the Merck for Mothers initiative. Through the Global Giving Program, Merck’s country offices support initiatives globally. Examples include:

  • In partnership with the Zuellig Family Foundation in the Philippines, grants are supporting a three-year project that provides community leadership training to more than 2,000 frontline practitioners, including midwives and barangay health workers, on a range of maternal health issues, from antenatal care to obstetric emergencies.
  • Merck is partnering with the World Lung Foundation to roll-out new mHealth (mobile health) technologies to support health workers in managing obstetric emergencies in remote areas of Tanzania. The funding also helps improve information sharing from clinical audits and creates a distance-learning platform to boost access to expertise in other parts of the country.
  • In Peru, grants are supporting Pathfinder International’s three-year project to advance the Peruvian Ministry of Health’s strategy to improve maternal and newborn health in the La Libertad region by updating and distributing obstetrics and neonatal emergency training manuals and by working with community leaders to inform the public about maternal health issues.


Merck has represented the private sector in several global initiatives, including:

  • U.N. Commodities Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children: Merck Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ken Frazier, served as a commissioner on the U.N. Commodities Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children, which is charged with developing a roadmap to increase access to essential medicines, medical devices, and other reproductive, maternal and child health commodities in low resource settings. The Commission’s report (released in September 2012) identified major barriers to access—such as weak supply chains and lack of affordable products—and recommended concrete steps to overcome them to save and improve the lives of women and children. Merck is continuing to collaborate with the Commission.
  • Innovation Working Group (IWG): Merck served as a co-chair of the IWG’s Task Force on Sustainable Business Models with the Norwegian Government. The task force led the research and development of Fostering Healthy Businesses: Delivering Innovations in Maternal and Child Health, a report published by the UN Secretary-General’s Every Woman, Every Child initiative, which has informed Merck for Mothers’ programming concerning the private provision of healthcare.


Merck for Mothers launched a U.S. consumer awareness campaign. “Once Upon a Birth” was designed to celebrate the universal experience of telling “birth day” stories in a way that resonates with people as a means of educating them about maternal mortality and introducing them to Merck for Mothers. The 2012 campaign activities included extensive social and traditional media outreach, including a satellite media tour and a Facebook page where individuals can share a story and trigger a donation to Join My Village, an initiative that empowers women and girls in developing countries. In 2012, the Facebook content was viewed by more than 4.6 million people, received more than 9,400 likes, and 81 stories were shared.

Last Updated December 19, 2013