Refugee women are vulnerable to exploitation, violence and disease. A UNHCR case worker recalls the women she will never forget. Read now!

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Maternal Health Safe Mother and Baby Program


Refugee women and children often have limited access to medical services and very few options for emergency care if complications arise.

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"To see a woman die in childbirth is something you never get used to. These are mostly healthy women and pregnancy is not a disease. In most cases you know that a few simple actions - a few simple items - would have been enough to save the mother and child".
Nadine Cornier, Senior Public Health Officer, UNHCR.

Each year, thousands of women die due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth. The risks are even greater for displaced and refugee women and children living in poverty and unsanitary conditions without access to antenatal or obstetric care.

Often these women have already experienced incredible trauma - forced to flee ongoing conflict and devastation in their homeland, in many cases losing their homes, their husbands and their children. It is in difficult and volatile situations such as this that UNHCR's Safe Mother and Baby Programs provide practical solutions for refugee women and children. Just a few simple items can help save lives!

Note: Should the funds raised exceed the amount required to meet the immediate and longer term needs of the people in the affected areas, Australia for UNHCR will direct donations to our Emergency Programs for Refugees to enable us to rapidly address future emergencies as they occur.

How we help

Refugee women and children often have limited access to medical services and very few options for emergency care if complications arise. In many cases they are forced to give birth in highly unsanitary conditions and, as such, they expose themselves and their newborns to the risk of post-natal infection.

UNHCR is supporting the training of skilled birth attendants and provides medical supplies for midwife delivery kits and equipment for delivery rooms. UNHCR also supports simple, yet highly effective, initiatives such as the distribution of Clean Delivery Kits. Containing a plastic sheet, clean blade, soap, string, swaddling and resuscitation instructions, they enable mothers to give birth in a clean environment, reducing the risk of haemorrhage and post-natal infection.

Australia for UNHCR is one of the few agencies providing funding for the Safe Mother and Baby program. Donations help UNHCR provide life-saving medical services to refugee and displaced women.

Meeting the MDGs

UNHCR is meeting the following MDGs in its Safe Mother and Baby Program:


MDG 4: This Goal focuses on reducing child mortality for children under the age of five. UNHCR's Safe Mother and Baby program has significantly reduced infant mortality rates around the world. Other UNHCR programs provide children with emergency nutrition and healthcare, as well as immunisations to prevent disease, ultimately reducing child mortality.


MDG 5: UNHCR's Safe Mother and Baby Program works to align itself with Goal 5 and improve maternal health. UNHCR provides ongoing postnatal care to thousands of refugee mothers and their babies through the construction of maternity wards, the provision of medical staff, emergency transport and clean delivery kits. Australia for UNHCR's maternal health work through its Safe Mother and Baby Program has directly resulted in reduced maternal and infant mortality rates in Somalia, Myanmar and Uganda.