Improving maternal health is key to saving the lives of more than half a million women who die as a result of complications from pregnancy and childbirth each year. Almost all these deaths could be prevented if women in developing countries had access to adequate diets, safe water and sanitation facilities, basic literacy and health services during pregnancy and childbirth. Hunger and malnutrition have been found to increase both the incidence and the fatality rate of the conditions that cause up to 80 percent of maternal deaths.
FAO contributes to improving maternal health through efforts to: improve women’s access to productive resources and income; improve women’s nutritional status; and empower women to obtain better health care, education and social services. FAO also promotes nutrition awareness among women and girls in rural areas and nutrition education in schools. Heavy workloads, combined with poor diets and frequent pregnancies, severely weaken women’s health. FAO provides assistance for the introduction of labour-saving technologies for women’s tasks in agriculture, food preparation and processing and for more easily accessible water supplies and fuel for cooking. FAO also promotes home gardens as a means to improve household and maternal nutrition.